25 Years of Zelda in 25 Days - 2002

The year 2001 gave us both Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons and the year 2003 gave us The Wind Waker. At a glance, the events of the year 2002 don’t appear worth mentioning. The highlight of 2002 is a remake that was bundled with a multiplayer game that many fans weren’t able to play.

At a glance, there doesn’t seem to be much worth celebrating.

A Masterpiece, Twice.

In 2002, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past had already been widely considered as one of the best Super Nintendo games released for many years. If you had asked me then what I thought about A Link to the Past, I would have told you it was the greatest Legend of Zelda game made to date and could not be made any better.

I also would have been wrong.

Most importantly, you can still defeat Agahnim with the bug-catching net.

Eleven years after the game’s original release, Nintendo remade A Link to the Past with some surprising additions. The script was entirely rewritten, new sound effects were added, the controls were adjusted to work with fewer buttons, and a new dungeon was added. The most surprising thing? All of the changes made the game even better.

I remember playing through the game for what seemed like the hundredth time and loving every minute of it all over again. I had always loved A Link to the Past, but the remake gave it new life. It wasn’t about nostalgia anymore. This was a new game, remade for a new handheld, and it was better than ever.

All of that was before you got to the entirely new game included with the bundle.

No one owns three link cables.

4. This screen. No matter how many times you try, the game will never let you play by yourself.

A few things come to mind when I think of Four Swords:

  1. I can’t play this.
  2. Why did Nintendo make it so hard to play this?
  3. I really wish I could play this.

I’m not alone in those thoughts. When Four Swords was released it was nearly impossible to play. To this day, I have never met another person who has ever managed to play Four Swords with four people. It’s really a shame because I would have loved to experience the game with three friends gathered around a table when I was in High School.

Instead, my one and only experience playing Four Swords with other people was a two-player, two-hour experience where a family member and I played through each stage once and never played the game again.

Nintendo was in love with the idea of connecting handhelds for great multiplayer experiences, but couldn’t seem to grasp how difficult and expensive it was to actually get the necessary equipment and people together to make it work.

Playing Four Swords with four people requires that you first find three other people who want to play a Zelda game and get them all into the same room. You then need four Gameboy Advances, four copies of the game, and three link cables.

It’s a nearly impossible situation.

The redeeming factor is the actual game. If you did manage to play Four Swords, you experienced a perfect formula for a multiplayer Legend of Zelda game. The game is well designed all around: from the cooperative combat to the randomized dungeons.

Four Swords was also the first Zelda game that let you carry around another Link as if he were an item.

The randomized dungeons are what make the game shine. They are well designed and there are enough different combinations to keep you surprised for a very long time. It’s a really great feeling to sit down and play a Legend of Zelda game that you have already beaten and have no idea what the game is going to be like when you begin playing again. It’s a feature I would love to see implemented in another Legend of Zelda game in the future.

It is also very important to recognize what Four Swords brought to the series. It may have been very difficult to play, but it was the first game released that featured the Four Sword and Vaati. The stories of both the sword and the villain have been expanded on in later games and brought some great new story elements to the Legend of Zelda series.

One Last Surprise

Very late in the year, Legend of Zelda fans in Japan and North America did get one last treat from Nintendo, but only if you pre-ordered a copy of The Wind Waker. Japanese fans received a copy of Ocarina of Time and its more difficult remake, Ura Zelda, that were playable on the Gamecube. North American fans received the same disk, but it was a much more exciting affair. Ura Zelda, renamed Ocarina of Time Master Quest, had never been released in North America prior to December 2002 and gave fans something new to keep them occupied in the months leading up to The Wind Waker’s 2003 debut.

Preparations on the Home Front

Zelda Universe as it appeared at the end of 2002.

The year 2002 may not have brought us a brand new high profile Legend of Zelda game, but the online community was thriving anyway. Fans were eagerly awaiting the release of The Wind Waker following the demo that was playable at E3 2002.

As the hype began to build, the online Legend of Zelda community continued to grow. Dozens of new Legend of Zelda fan sites opened in 2002, and a handful of those are still around nine years later.

Exploding Deku Nut launched late in the year and is still an active part of our community today. EDN is well known for their humor and their annual Golden Item Awards that recognize excellence in our community.

The History of Hyrule was launched by Melora in 2002 and became a haven for fans looking for English translations of Legend of Zelda manga and comics. The site has been on hiatus for years, but is planning a return to the community in the near future.

ZHQ2 was launched by TSA in 2002. A few years later, the site became The Hylia. Despite being around for years, the site has unfortunately become mostly inactive.

On a more negative note, Hyrule: The Land of Zelda (HTLOZ), one of the biggest Legend of Zelda fan sites at the time, closed its doors in 2002. It’s legacy lives on at HTLOZ 2.

2002 in one word: Multiplayer

Despite how difficult it was to play, 2002 will always be remembered as the year the first multiplayer Legend of Zelda game was released. Four Swords paved the way for Four Swords Adventures and The Minish Cap. I would even argue that Four Swords paved the way for The Wind Waker’s Tingle Tuner and the multiplayer modes included in Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.

That makes five Legend of Zelda games that were influenced by difficult-to-play bonus game included in a remake.