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‘A Link to the Past’s’ Mythological Structure

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Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past

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.

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.

A Link to the Past

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 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.

A Link to the Past

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.

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.

A Link to the Past

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 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.

A Link to the Past

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 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.

A Link to the Past

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 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.

A Link to the Past

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 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.

An avid-lover of all things Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, and pretentious French lit, Renan spends most of his time passionately raving about Dragon Ball on the internet and thinking about how to apply Marxist theory to whatever video game he's currently playing.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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