The first time players ever held the Master Sword, in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past…
Great Moments in Gaming is a column wherein we look back at some of the great gaming moments that have made a significant impact on our view of this medium and how we have come to understand it. This week, we’re looking back at the moment Link first obtained the Master Sword in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
There are few weapons in all of gaming that are as iconic as the Master Sword. The sword of legend that can strike down any evil force, the Master Sword has appeared in over a dozen The Legend of Zelda titles but its first appearance was here in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
First mentioned by the elder, Sahasrahla, the Master Sword is your first major goal to guide you forward in your journey. Of course, before Link can be seen as worthy to pull it from the stone pedestal in which it rests, he must gather three mystical pendants.
The fact that you must achieve this monumental undertaking in order to even be worthy of the sword in the first place adds further reverence to the task at hand. Navigating your way to, conquering and overcoming the beasts of three different dungeons is no mean feat, and the structure this adds to the previously aimless The Legend of Zelda series is one of the central reasons why A Link to the Past is so fondly remembered nearly three decades later.
An achievement is always most rewarding when you’ve put in the kind of work that makes you feel like you deserve it in the first place. And if battling the pain-in-the-ass boss of the Tower of Hera didn’t make you feel like you were putting in work then you were definitely playing a different game than I was.
In any case, once Link has gathered the three pendants, he can finally return to the Lost Woods and get the Master Sword. As you scuttle your way hurriedly through the fog and mist of the forest, you can’t help but feel a rush of excitement. Then, finally, you reach the Sacred Grove.
A location wholly different from the rest of the Lost Woods, the Sacred Grove of A Link to the Past is the only place in the forest where you see actual wild life. Squirrels and rabbits scurry away as you enter, and the fact that no monsters are present here is indicative of the power of the Master Sword, even as it slumbers on its stone pedestal. Small details like these let you know what a special and magical place this truly is.
And then, at last, the moment comes. Standing in place, in front of the Master Sword, players hit the A button, and the magic begins. A new theme of 16-bit orchestral power overtakes the Lost Woods music, and as the pendants of courage, power and wisdom float in the air around you, and the triumphant melody rises, Link pulls the sword from the stone and raises it above his head.
Light rushes into the gloom of the Lost Woods, and the fog dissipates. Link stands tall and proud, sword still raised, as Sahasrahla contacts him telepathically to tell him that there is no time to waste. Unable to even celebrate his monumental achievement, Link must rush to Zelda’s aid post-haste if he hopes to stop the evil sorcerer, Agahnim, from opening the path to the Dark World.
Though the victory is short-lived, few moments in the remainder of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past can rival the epic scale and reverent tone of Link obtaining the Master Sword. After all, it isn’t just the most memorable moment in the game, it’s one of the most memorable moments of any game of its era.
While we would witness this moment again and again as the franchise continued on, as the old adage goes, there’s nothing quite like your first time. As such, the first time Link grasped the hilt of the Master Sword and held it aloft, chasing away any inkling of evil and darkness from the Lost Woods, remains an awe-inspiring and intensely evocative memory, one that many gamers still treasure nearly 30 years later.