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‘A Link to the Past’s’ Mythological Structure

goombastomp.com/link-to-the-past-mythological-structure

Games

Published

2 years ago
on

July 3, 2018
By

Renan Fontes

It says quite a lot about the quality of the game that A Link to the Past’s contributions to
The Legend of Zelda franchise are still, more or less, relevant to this day. While both A
Link Between Worlds and Breath of the Wild took steps in pushing the series forward,
denying A Link to the Past’s influence on the games that came before would be foolish.
This was the entry that gave dungeons proper puzzles, started (but not yet solidified)
the trend of dungeon items being used against bosses, and established the “Zelda
Formula,” a structure which saw the majority of games being split into two key sections.
Along with the many gameplay additions, A Link to the Past brought with it a more
focused narrative that worked to expand the lore and mythology of the series.
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While both The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link had a clear mythological
identity, the first two installments’ faith felt more analogous to Christianity than the
wholly unique religion found in the rest of the franchise. The Triforce clearly always
played a divine role in the series, in both it how it was utilized in the first two games
along with its appearance, but it wouldn’t be until A Link to the Past where the Triforce
would be fully fleshed out into more than just a godly symbol. A Link to the Past
establishes the Triforce as a tangible object rooted in divinity, coveted by all. It’s
through the Triforce’s expanded role that the series gains adequate context for the
conflict between Link and Ganon while also making A Link to the Past feel classically
epic in nature.

More than anything, it’s A Link to the Past’s narrative structure which allows the game
to properly establish a more focused mythos for the franchise. While Link is already on
his adventure by the time players take control of him in The Legend of Zelda and The
Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past opens with a literal call to adventure, the first step
in the Hero’s Journey. In the middle of the night, through telepathy, Princess Zelda calls
for Link to come rescue her in Hyrule Castle’s dungeon. Upon being told by their uncle
to stay inside, the player is then given control of Link and tasked with disobeying his
mentor figure to rescue Zelda. Through spiritual aid, Zelda leads the player to the
castle’s secret entrance where Link meets his now dying uncle who bestows upon him
his sword.

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Although Link’s Uncle is really no more than just a means of giving Link a sword as far
as the gameplay is concerned, that doesn’t mean his minimal role isn’t impactful or
devoid of thematic relevance. While there’s no emotional attachment in his death for the
player, the act of passing his sword onto Link is quite ceremonial given the context.
Despite not being in any true danger, Link proves himself by avoiding the guards,
braving the storm, and finding a hidden passageway into the castle. The entire opening
works in service of Link “earning” his sword. In The Legend of Zelda, he’s simply given
it inside a cave while he begins with it in The Adventure of Link. A Link to the Past uses
its introduction to establish a scenario where Link proves his worth and takes up his
Uncle’s sword as his last will and testament.

From there, Link rescues Princess Zelda, escorts her out of the castle, and leads her to a
Sanctuary where she takes refuge for the game’s first act. Now having rescued the
Princess and inherited his uncle’s blade, Link is properly set out on his adventure to
retrieve the three Pendants of Virtue so that he can wield the Master Sword and defeat
Agahnim. It’s in leaving the Sanctuary to go about their quest that the player crosses the
first threshold in the Hero’s Journey, properly beginning their adventure.

It should be explicitly stated that this threshold is for the player and not Link since the

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key difference signifying A Link to the Past opening up is the storm’s clearing.
Realistically, Link would be familiar with a clear-skied Hyrule whereas someone playing
the game for the first time wouldn’t. Worth noting, however, is that Link is still very
much a blank state at this point in the series so, in a way, this first threshold still counts
as far as Link’s arc is concerned since he’s less of a character and more of a vessel.

The order in which the three Pendants of Virtue are attained are also worth making note
of as they lend themselves to a subtle arc of sorts for Link/the player. The first pendant
Link is tasked in finding is that of Courage. Courage is a theme that will go on to play a
large role as far as future iterations of Link are concerned so it’s only natural A Link to
the Past kick off with Link proving his bravery. Although the Eastern Palace lacks
elements that would traditionally test one’s bravery, it housing the Pendant of Courage
still works as an extension of the opening.

Link proved his bravery earlier by entering Hyrule Castle swordless and then helping
Princess Zelda escape at the expense of being labeled a criminal by Hyrule. Now, in a
worse situation than he’s ever been in, he still agrees to help Zelda, braving a dungeon
so that he can obtain the Master Sword and defeat a wizard terrorizing an entire
country. The narrative doesn’t need to make a note of Link proving his bravery since the
context of the adventure up to that point already does so.
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Tucked away in the Desert Palace, the Pendant of Power actually does have some
synchronicity with the actual gameplay. As the Pendant of Power, it’s natural to
associate it with swordplay. Even though the dungeon itself doesn’t emphasize action
any more so than usual, it is the third major dungeon in the game, (counting Hyrule
Castle,) so players should be expected to have a better grasp of the combat by this point.
Whether intentional or not, the Pendant of Power’s placement makes sense within A
Link to the Past’s overall structure simply due to the fact that it gives players enough
time to adjust to the combat and understand how to properly fend for themselves.

Of all the pendants, the Pendant of Wisdom at the top of the Tower of Hera feels the
most appropriately placed in regards to context and dungeon. By this point in the game,
players have taken on more than a few puzzles and should have a grasp of what A Link
to the Past expects from them. This is reflected in the Tower of Hera’s main puzzle:
obtaining the Moon Pearl. It is incredibly easy to miss the Moon Pearl and simply head
to the Boss fight, but previous dungeons will have bestowed upon the player the wisdom
to know and understand that Boss Keys serve dual functions. Not only do they open the
door to the boss, they also open the dungeon’s biggest chest, giving Link access to a new
item.

Once Link retrieves all three Pendants of Virtue, and ideally the Moon Pearl, he can
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then head into the Lost Woods to pull the Master Sword out of its pedestal. Scenery
wise, the Master Sword could not be placed in a better location. Traversing a fogged,
labyrinthine forest only to be greeted with a serene grove filled with animals is the
perfect place for a legendary sword to sleep. It’s mystical in nature, surrounded by
nature. The scenario is only made better by Link needing to transcribe the text on the
Master Sword’s pedestal with the Book of Mudora before he can actually wield it. As the
Japanese script reads:

“When the ‘Great Catastrophe’ befalleth, the ‘Hero’ carrying three crests shall come, and
by those hands shall be drive out the sword. That person will be one who doth carry the
blood of the Knight Family.”

The inscription itself adds a considerable amount of weight to the story up to that point.
The Japanese text implies that the Great Catastrophe has begun in earnest and time has
effectively run out, or is running out, to stop Agahnim. Should Link return to the
Sanctuary after obtaining the Master Sword, the priest who was taking care of Zelda will
reveal that he failed in keeping her safe before dying. As the Sanctuary was also one of
Link’s spawn points when booting up the game, along with serving as a quick way to
regain health, there is a substantial feeling of loss in the priest’s death, at the very least
eliciting some sort of emotional reaction from the player if only one out of convenience.

Link storming Hyrule Castle to rescue Princess Zelda effectively signals the beginning of
the end for A Link to the Past. Even with the Master Sword in hand, Link fails in
rescuing the Princess, fails in stopping Agahnim, and fails in saving Hyrule. At the end
of the boss fight with Agahnim, Link and the player find themselves at the lowest point
of the Hero’s Journey. Not only have they failed, but they’ve also been transported to a
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separate world entirely: the Dark World.

A perversion of the lush and full of life Hyrule, the Dark World is a land rampant with
monsters and desolation. It is a completely warped version of the overworld players
have gotten used to for hours. In many ways, the Dark World is analogous to a journey
through the Underworld for Link, a staple of classic storytelling. To make matters
worse, should Link not have the Moon Pearl, he’ll take the form of a defenseless rabbit
in the Dark World, preventing him from attacking and requiring him to use the Magic
Mirror to go back to the Light World in order to grab the Moon Pearl from Hera’s
Tower.

It’s only through that Moon Pearl that Link is able to retain his true form in the Dark
World, allowing him to rescue the seven maidens Agahnim kidnapped so that he can
finish his quest and save Hyrule. Depending on how the players takes Link’s loss to
Agahnim in Hyrule Castle, the Dark World’s narrative can be seen as a prolonged
atonement where Link makes up for his failure to prevent Zelda’s capture. As is to be
expected from a metaphorical journey through Hell, the Dark World sees a difficulty
spike all around. Enemies are more aggressive, puzzles aren’t as clear cut, and
dungeons are substantially longer.

As Link rescues the maidens locked away in the Dark World, it’s revealed “the sacred
land where the Triforce was placed” before Ganon took hold of the Triforce and
corrupted the land into the Dark World. This context gives the Dark World an even
more hellish personification since it’s confirmed, in text, to be a literal corruption of a
sacred land. With this in mind, Link’s goal becomes more than just saving the maidens
and stopping Agahnim. He’s now responsible for bringing balance back to the divine
order of the world by stopping Ganon, retrieving the Triforce, and undoing his wish.

After rescuing all the Maidens, the road to the final step in Link’s Hero’s Journey takes
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him to Ganon’s Tower where he confronts Agahnim one last time only to learn that
Agahnim and Ganon were one and the same the entire time. From a narrative
perspective, this allows there to be a deeper bond between Link and Ganon before
heading into the final fight. Ganon isn’t just a random villain showing up for the finale
as he was actively working against Link the entire time, albeit disguised.

The actual final fight with Ganon is very mythological in nature since Link is required to
use a mix of the Silver Arrows and the Master Sword to defeat Ganon. While also being
a reference to the original Legend of Zelda, the silver arrows simply add another layer to
the story’s structure. The Master Sword alone wasn’t enough to fell Ganon in Agahnim’s
form so of course Link would require another mystical weapon to help finish the job.
Link obtaining the Silver Arrows is even Arthurian in concept, requiring Link to toss his
arrows into a Fairy’s pond within the Pyramid of Power.

Upon finally defeating Ganon, Link is welcomed into the Triforce’s chamber where it’s
revealed that the Triforce “is the ‘Golden Power’ of the gods.” It can be taken for granted
considering later games frequently make mention of the goddesses, but this is the first
explicit in-game mention of Hyrule being a polytheistic world outside of A Link to the
Path’s Japanese title, Triforce of the Gods. Not only that, it’s confirmation that multiple
gods to in fact exist in The Legend of Zelda’s mythos. Fittingly, Link coming in contact
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with the Triforce fills the criteria for the Gift of the Goddess within the Hero’s Journey
where the hero receives a reward for their actions. In this case, Link wishes for the
world to return to the way it was before Ganon began terrorizing Hyrule, also fulfilling
the criteria for the Hero’s return at the end of their Hero’s Journey.

Before the credits roll, the player is shown the result of Link’s wish. Characters who died
come back to life, order is restored to Hyrule, and the Master Sword is returned to its
pedestal, never to be touched again. While that last part is certainly debatable
considering the chronology of the series and how future games link back to A Link to
the Past, it doesn’t change the fact that A Link to the Past is mythological in structure
from start to finish and that its structure contributed greatly to how future games would
approach the series’ lore and narrative. It is a tale that is epic in its most traditional
sense, giving players the chance to live out a Hero’s Journey all while establishing a
mythological identity for The Legend of Zelda as a whole.

As Koji Kondo’s score plays over the credits, slowly easing into a rendition of the series’
main theme, it becomes abundantly clear that The Legend of Zelda’s mythos is more
than just a few Christian references with mentions of a Triforce here and there. It’s a
fleshed out, fully realized world with something meaningful to say. Whether it be about
the nature of man or what it means to be a hero, A Link to the Past takes a serious
attempt at expanding the Zelda lore and it does so spectacularly. A Link to the Past is a
complete redefinition of The Legend of Zelda’s world, elevating the series to a new
standard entirely. One rooted in myth.

Related Topics:NintendoSNESSuper NintendoThe Legend Of ZeldaThe Legend of


Zelda: A Link to the Past
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Renan Fontes
An avid-lover of all things Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, and The Legend
of Zelda, Renan spends most of his time passionately raving about Dragon
Ball and thinking about how to apply Marxist theory to whatever video
game he's currently playing.

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Games

Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle


We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship
roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.

Published

10 hours ago
on

September 19, 2020


By

Campbell Gill

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Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some
of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come
to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like
PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with
announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of
news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five
exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in
the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim,
there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under


Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro
Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of
failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard
work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable
experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with
me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or
overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make
it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all
consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

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Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle
Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this
puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a
world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its
gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to
use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to
become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate
experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting
this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD


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There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary.
GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the
skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments.
Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face
off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player
campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by
its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and
aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now
on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion


Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a
hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent
monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its
difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to
leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access
since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a
promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its
complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s
hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

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Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village
Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village.
This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-
drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who
stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by
interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact
with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel
brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if
you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s
already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers
out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

Continue Reading

Games

PAX Online: ‘Inkulinati’ and ‘Pumpkin Jack’


The PAX Online celebrations continue with the strategy game, Inkulinati, and spooky
Halloween themed Pumpkin Jack.

Published
14/30
11 hours ago
on

September 19, 2020


By

Matthew Ponthier

The PAX Online celebrations continue with a strategy game whose tales are writ in ink
and a game sure to put you in an early Halloween mood.

Inkulinati

Platforms: Switch and Steam


Release: 2021

Preview in new tab(opens in a new tab)

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Competitive strategy games stress me out. Chess? Stresses me out. Checkers? Stresses
me out. Star Craft? Stresses me out. Managing that stress as a form of stimulation is
what makes the best strategy games shine, though, and Inkulinati is so far
demonstrating all the facets of such a game.

The titular Inkulinati are masters of a craft that brings their inked creatures to life on
parchment, including a caricature of themselves. The two Inkulinati do written battle
with each other until only one is left standing. The battles are carried out in a charming
medieval art style that looks like it was taken straight out of a manuscript you’d find
carefully stored in a library. These aren’t the masterpieces of Da Vinci or Van Gogh, but
the kinds of scribbles you’d find the layman making on the edges of pages either out of
boredom or mischievousness. The playful art makes for a playful tone and jolly times.

The core thrust of the gameplay is that each Inkulinati utilizes ink points to conjure
units, or “creatures”, onto the parchment in a turn-based manner and sends them into
the fray. There were a fair amount of creatures available in the demo — ranging from a
simple swordsdog with well-rounded stats to a donkey capable of stunning foes with its
trusty butt trumpet. Many many more creature types are promised in the full game, but
I found even with the limited selection of the demo the gameplay was still able to be
showcased well.

Your primary Inkulinati also has some tricks up its depending on the type you’ve chosen
to take into battle. Instant damage to or healing a unit were the two shown off in the
demo, as well as being able to shove units. Shoving is particularly useful as you can
push enemies into the hellfires that encroach the battlefield as the battle wages on,
instantly defeating them.

Doing battle with an opponent it all well and good, but what’s the point if it’s not
immortalized for generations to experience down the line? Inkulimati understands this
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need and will record every single action of the battlefield in written word. It’s infinitely
charming, and the amount of variations in how to say what amounts to just “X unit
attacked Y enemy” is astonishing. How can you not chuckle at, “Powerful Morpheus
killed the enemy and may those who failed to witness this live in constant pain and
regret”?

Pumpkin Jack

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam


Release: Q4 2020

Halloween may be a little over a month away but that didn’t stop the 3D action
platformer Pumpkin Jack getting me in the spookyween mood. The human realm is
suffering from the Devil’s curse and have elected the aid of a wizarding champion to
save them from it. Not to be outdone, the Devil also chooses his own champion to stop
the wizard, choosing the despicable spirit Jack. With the tasty reward of being able to
pass on from hell, Jack dons his pumpkin head and a wooden & straw body on his quest
to keep the world ruined. The premise sounds slightly grim but make no mistake that
this is a goofy game through and through, a fact only emphasized by a brilliant opening
narration dripping with sarcasm and morbid glee.

The demo took us through Pumpkin Jack‘s first stage, a dilapidated farmland full of
ambient lanterns abandoned storehouses. The visuals are compliments by a
wonderfully corny soundtrack full of all the tubas, xylophones, and ghost whistles one
would expect a title that is eternally in the Halloween mood.

We got the basics of traversal, like dodge rolling and double jumps, before coming upon
a terrified murder of crows. Turns out their favorite field has been occupied by a
dastardly living scarecrow and they want Jack to take care of it. One crow joins Jack on
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his quest, taking the form of a projectile attack that he can sic on enemies. Jack also
obtains a shovel he can use to whack on the animated skeletons with a simple three-hit
combo. There’s nothing particularly standout about the combat, but it doesn’t
necessarily need to be this early on. More weapons such as a rifle and scythe are
promised in the full game and should go a way towards developing the combat along
with more enemy variety.

Collectible crow skulls also dot the map and seem to be cleverly hidden as even when I
felt like I was carefully searching the whole stage I had only found 12 out of 20 by the
end. Their purpose is unknown in the demo, so here’s hopping they amount to
something making me want to find those last eight in the full version.

After accidentally lighting a barn ablaze and escaping in a dramatic sequence we came
across the scarecrow in question. Defeating it was a rather simple affair that was just a
matter of shooting it out of the air with the crow then wailing on it with Jack’s shovel.
We were awarded a new glaive-type weapon as a reward but unable to give it a whirl in
the demo, unfortunately. All-in-all, Pumpkin Jack shows promise as a follow-up to
action 3D platformers of yore like Jak & Daxter, so here’s hoping to a solid haunting
when it releases later this year.

Continue Reading

Games

‘Oracle of Seasons’: A Game Boy Color Classic

Published
18/30
4 days ago
on

September 16, 2020


By

Renan Fontes

“It is an endless cycle of life… the changing seasons!”


The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons are very much two halves of
the same grand adventure, but they’re both worth examining on their own merits.
Seasons in particular brings with it quite an interesting history. The game that would
eventually become Oracle of Seasons began life as a remake of the original Legend of
Zelda. This remake would be accompanied by five other games– a remake of Zelda II:
The Adventure of Link and four original titles – all developed for the Game Boy Color.
These games would not be developed by Nintendo themselves, but by Flagship– a
subsidiary of Capcom that was also funded in part by Nintendo and Sega.

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These six games would eventually be trimmed into
a trilogy slated to release in the summer, autumn,
& winter of 2000, before settling as a duology that
would launch simultaneously in 2001. Where
Oracle of Ages was the sole survivor of the four
original games, Oracle of Seasons was a brand new
game morphed out of the Zelda 1 remake.
Considering director Hidemaro Fujibayashi’s own
reflection on Flagship’s Zelda proposal, much of
what would define Seasons was always present;

“The core of the game was pretty much decided. That is to


say, the fact that it would be on the Game Boy Color, the
use of the four seasons, and the decision to retain the feel
of the 2D Zelda games. It was also decided that it would be
a series.”
Not only was this remake never intended to be a
standalone entry, it would kick start its own sub-series while featuring seasons at the
forefront of the gameplay. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto likewise asked Fujibayashi
to pen a new story for the original Legend of Zelda, suggesting a fairly comprehensive
remake as the end goal. With so many inherent changes, however, The Hyrule Fantasy
ended up leaving the region altogether.

“I believe the Zelda series really only started to have scenarios after the hardware specifications
improved. The original Zelda was a pure action-RPG and didn’t have much of a story to begin with. I
wanted to combine both those aspects (action-RPG and an actual scenario) this time around. At first,
we’d only planned on creating a game one-tenth the size of the final version. But it just kept growing
as development progressed and gradually turned into an original game.”
– Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Director/Planner/Scenario Writer
Oracle of Seasons takes after Link’s Awakeningand Majora’s Mask by setting itself
away from Hyrule– the kingdom only ever shown during the opening cinematic.
Holodrum has one of the densest worlds in a 2D Zelda game, if not the densest after A
Link to the Past & A Link Between Worlds. A kingdom geographically similar to Hyrule
as seen in the original Legend of Zelda, Holodrum has its own northern mountainside,
a final dungeon in the northwest corner, and dozens of old men hidden amongst the
land. This all makes sense since Seasons is rooted in a remake of the first game, but it
isn’t as if Holodrum is without its novelties.

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Holodrum is distinct from Hyrule where it counts. The kingdom itself is quite large,
sprawling when compared directly to Koholint Island. Progression often feels like a
puzzle, especially when working around roadblocks early on. Holodrum’s four seasons
are out of order, with the weather changing on the fly between regions. Link has to work
around snow banks, overgrown trees, flooded fields, and petrified flora to overcome
Holodrum’s chaos. As easy as it is to get side tracked in the vast kingdom, it’s only
because there always tends to be something around the corner. Getting lost isn’t a
problem when the overworld is so secret heavy.

Old men are frequently found hiding under trees, actually giving players a reason to
burn them on sight now, but new systems are in place to make exploration even more
rewarding. Link will come across patches of soft soil throughout Holodrum where he
can plant Gasha Seeds. Owing their name to gashapon– Japanese capsule toys not too
dissimilar to blind bag toys– Gasha Seeds grow into Gasha Trees which bear Gasha
Nuts after Link has defeated 40 enemies. Gasha Nut contents are randomized, but they
incentivize players to return to previously explored areas.

Not everything a Gasha Nut drops is worth the effort


of chopping down 40 enemies– the worst being five
regular hearts and a sole fairy– but the best rewards
make it all worthwhile. While the Heart Piece tied to
the Nut is probably the best overall get, Gasha Seeds
naturally feed into the Ring system. Rings add an
inherent RPG layer to the Oracle duology’s gameplay,
offering the earliest instance of genuine player
customization in the Zelda franchise. Rings, like
Gasha Nuts, are completely random. Link will find
many in his travels, but he needs to appraise them at
Vasu’s ring shop in Horon Village before they can be
used. Except in a few rare instances, Vasu’s appraisals
are randomized.

There are 64 rings altogether between Seasons and Ages, all with varying effects. Which
rings Link obtains can influence how players go about their game. RNG also ensures
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that each new playthrough is unique from the last. While this poses an obvious
frustration for any completionists, it’s a fantastic way of adding another layer of replay
value to an already fairly replayable experience. The Expert’s Ring allows Link to punch
enemies if he unequips his weapons, the Charge Ring speeds up the Spin Attack, and the
Protection Ring makes it so Link always takes one Heart of damage when attacked.

With so many rings to choose from, the gameplay is kept in balance by Link’s Ring Box.
Once appraised, Link can equip his rings into his box. While he can only equip one
initially, players can find a Box upgrade on Goron Mountain. With RNG already
influencing which rings Link has access to, it’s unlikely two players will have the exact
same experience in Oracle of Seasons– rings offering more personalization than is still
usual for Zelda. Besides Gasha Nuts, Rings can be found in the overworld and dropped
by Maple, a young witch who makes further use of RNG.

Maple is Syrup’s apprentice, the recurring witch


who runs the potion shop in A Link to the Past
and Link’s Awakening. Riding in on her
broomstick, Maple will appear after Link has
killed 30 enemies. Should players bump into
her, both Link & Maple will drop their treasures,
prompting Maple to race the player for them. It’s
almost always worthwhile to focus on what
Maple’s dropped rather than what Link lost. Not
only does Maple drop her own unique set of
rings, she’s a convenient way of getting potions
early on and will eventually drop a Heart Piece.
Maple also gets progressively faster, upgrading
her flying broomstick to a vacuum after enough altercations.

So much RNG can be off-putting, but Holodrum is such an extensive overworld that
randomness isn’t much of an issue. Gasha Seeds drive exploration and Maple’s
appearances reward it. These systems also encourage players to fight enemies head-on
rather than avoid them when it’s convenient. If gameplay ever feels more involved in
Oracle of Seasons than the average Zelda game, that’s because it is. This goes double
when taking the very seasons into account.

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The four seasons influence
overworld progression significantly
and most non-dungeon puzzles
center on Link using the Rod of
Seasons to restore seasonal order to
whatever region he’s in. Most of
these puzzles solve themselves since
seasons can only be changed on
stumps, but concessions need to be
made when an overworld features
four unique versions of every region.
Incredible use of the Game Boy
Color’s hardware helps in this
regard as well. The handheld was
designed with making in-game
colors pop and Oracle of Seasons– as an extremely late-life GBC game– stands out as
one of the most vibrant titles in the system’s library.

Each season has its own defining color palette– blue for winter, red for summer, green
for spring, yellow for autumn– but there is always a wide range of colors on-screen.
Winter matches its light blue with shades of white & gray; spring features an almost
pastel color tone where gold & pink flowers bloom against soft shades of green; summer
deepens most colors for a bolder effect; and autumn offsets its yellow with orange, red,
and in some instances purple. Oracle of Seasons might very well have the best
atmosphere on the Game Boy Color, each season stylized & recognizable with their own
distinct tones. It’s a phenomenal presentation that outdoes OoS’ contemporaries.
Seasons outright has better art direction than most early GBA games.

The fact Oracle of Seasons commits to its premise in such a large overworld as strictly
as it does is praiseworthy, but it’s even more impressive that there’s another world
lurking underneath Holodrum. Subrosia is a bizarre underworld, easily the most eclectic
setting in the franchise other than Termina (and in many respects more so.) Subrosians
are culturally impolite, bathe in lava, and deal in Ore instead of Rupees. The Subrosian
Market undersells a Heart Piece, volcanic eruptions are a welcome norm, and Link will
be moving between Holodrum & Subrosia multiple times over the course of his journey.
Players can even go on a date with a Subrosian girl, Rosa, that’s a clear play on his date
with Marin from Link’s Awakening. Subrosia is so alien that it’s hard not to love every
moment beneath Holodrum.

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Beyond the four seasons and the dichotomy between Holodrum & Subrosia, what
differentiates Oracle of Seasons most from Oracle of Agesis its focus on action. Seasons
is a puzzle heavy game, but it lets combat drive the gameplay more often than not with a
very action-centric tool kit. The Slingshot makes its 2D debut, replacing the Bow in the
process, but its 250 seed capacity outdoes any of Link’s quivers. Its upgraded version,
the Hyper Slingshot, even fires in three directions at once. The Roc’s Feather returns
from Link’s Awakening to once again make jumping an important part of Link’s
mobility. Not only is platforming far more frequent this time around– with the Ancient
Ruins featuring quite a bit of jumping for a 2D dungeon– it upgrades into the Roc’s
Cape which allows Link to glide.

The Boomerang now upgrades into a guided Magical Boomerang which players can
control themselves; the Magnetic Gloves are ostensibly a better version of the Hookshot
which can pull Link to & from magnetic sources, along with magnetizing certain
baddies; and most enemies are designed with a combination of the sword & shield in
mind. Oracle of Ages has its fair share of action as well, but not with quite the same
focus as Oracle of Seasons.

In general, Seasons is a focused video game in the best ways possible. OoS always gives
players a general direction to go in, but otherwise leaves Link to his own devices. There
are little to no interruptions, and the gameplay loop emphasizes freedom in spite of the
game’s linearity. There’s always something to do and you’re always making progress,
whether that be narratively or checking in on some Gasha Nuts. The pace is perfectly
suited for handheld gaming and quick burst play sessions. Only have a few minutes to
play? Kill some enemies to trigger Maple. Got some time? Scope out the next dungeon
and work towards saving Holodrum.

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There are also a number of side quests to round off gameplay. The main trading
sequence ends with Link finding the Noble Sword in Holodrum’s Lost Woods; players
can forge an Iron Shield in Subrosia by smelting red and blue ore together & bringing
the refined ore to the Subrosian smithy; and Golden Beasts roam Holodrum, each
appearing during a different season & in a set region. Once all four are defeated, Link
can find an old man north of Horon Village who will give him the Red Ring– a ring
which doubles the Sword’s attack at no expense to the player.

All these side quests are worthwhile, especially since Oracle of Seasons is a bit on the
tougher side when it comes to difficulty. Dungeons are very fast-paced, full of puzzles
that are often deceptively simple. Dungeon items are used in increasingly clever ways,
from traversing over bottomless pits with strategic use of the Magnetic Gloves to using
the Hyper Slingshot to activate three statues at once. Notably, most bosses in Seasons
are actually remixes of boss fights from the first Legend of Zelda.

Aquamentus, Dodongo, Gohma, Digdogger, Manhandla, and Gleeok all return with a
vengeance. Gleeok in particular puts up a serious fight, forcing Link on the offensive.
Not only do players need to be quick enough to slice off Gleeok’s two heads before they
can attack themselves back on, the dragon will persist as a skeleton for round 2.
Explorer’s Crypt is a difficult enough dungeon where getting to the boss room with full
health isn’t a guarantee, so Gleeok offers a surprising but welcome challenge as a
result.

25/30
Oracle of Seasons deserves a bit of credit
for having one of the harder final bosses in
the series, as well. Onox doesn’t have
much in the way of personality, but he’s a
tough boss to put down. His second form
requires Link to use the Spin Attack to deal
damage while making sure he doesn’t hit
Din in the process, and Onox’s dragon
form is a gauntlet of dodging, jumping, &
surviving long enough to finally kill the
General of Darkness. Players are bound to
die once or twice, but the final dungeon is
short enough where getting back to Onox takes no time at all.

If Oracle of Seasons has one glaring flaw, however, it’s the story. The script reads like a
massive step back coming off the heels of Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time, and
especially Majora’s Mask. Link is summoned to aid the Oracle Din, already a seasoned
hero and implied to be the same Link from A Link to the Past, but very little time is
spent fleshing out Din as a character & giving players a reason to care about her. Her
role is more akin to Zelda in A Link to the Past than Marin in Link’s Awakening.
Similarly, Onox is an undercooked villain who shows up to kidnap Din and does nothing
for the rest of the story. Of course, this light story stems from Seasons’ origin as a
remake of The Legend of Zelda.

Early press of the game– when it was still going by the name Acorn of the Tree of
Mystery– indicates that the story was originally set in Hyrule and the seasons went out
of order when Ganon kidnapped Princess Zelda, the guardian of both the Triforce of
Power &the four seasons. Hyrule was changed to Holodrum, Ganon became Onox,
Zelda turned to Din, and the eight fragments of the Triforce presumably became the
eight Essences of Nature. While underwhelming, the plot’s structure if nothing else
makes sense.

26/30
It’s worth pointing out that Oracle of Seasons
seems to recognize that story is its weakness and
lets the gameplay drive the experience. Unlike
Oracle of Ages which takes its plot seriously and
has a clear thematic arc, Seasons really is just a
remix of Zelda 1’s plot. Which is perfect for the
kind of game OoS ultimately is: a fast-paced,
action-packed adventure through an ever-
changing world. When played as a precursor to
Ages instead of its ending, Seasons’ story comes
off comparatively better. The stakes aren’t that
high or defined, but that’s more than okay for the
first half of an adventure that spans two full-
length games.

In a departure for the franchise, Oracle of


Seasons actually features a proper post-game,
marking the first time any Zelda acknowledges
that the main threat is over. NPCs will comment
on how they haven’t seen Link in a while, the
weather has stabilized as spring has set in
Holodrum, and you’re free to wrap up any side quests left unfinished. This is especially
noteworthy because players can link their progress from Seasons over into Ages and
transfer any rings they have on hand.

An epilogue makes for a charming send-off to one of the most charming games on the
Game Boy Color. Oracle of Seasons underwent a strange development, intended to be
little more than a suped-up remake of the original Legend of Zelda. Instead, Flagship
ended up developing one of the finest games on the GBC– a vibrant adventure filled
with personality and some of the best action on the handheld. Oracle of Seasons isn’t
just one half of a greater game; it’s a classic Zelda in its own right.

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