This Thursday I’m throwing back (way back) to my younger days, and a surreal experience I had whilst playing Link’s Awakening. I warn you: it’s a weird one.

My eldest sister had always been the one to indulge my love of gaming when I was young — I’d visit her house on the weekends, packing my SNES in my backpack so that we could hook it up to her TV in the living room and while away hours together playing through something we’d rented from the video store.

For about a week, my friend had lent me his brother’s copy of A Link to the Past, and I’d been enthralled by it. It was the first time I’d played anything like it, and I knew immediately that my taste in games had changed forever. My sister and I had played it together and were getting close to finishing it when my friend suddenly asked for the cartridge back so that his brother could lend it to a friend.

Still grouchy that I hadn’t been allowed an extra day or two to complete the game before having to give it back, I remember my sister stopped for a visit at my mum’s house, telling me “when you come over at the weekend, you don’t need to bring any games. I’ve got us a new one to play.”

I was excited — money was tight, so it wasn’t every weekend I got the gift of a new game. That game turned out to be Link’s Awakening, played on the Super Game Boy so that we could go through it togetherThe next few weekend sessions were spent trying to wake the Windfish and eventually, getting towards the end of the game, we didn’t have much left to do except for collect twenty Secret Seashells to claim the mysterious reward from the Seashell Mansion.

We got stuck on 19.

Both the Windfish and I had been dreaming, but when I awoke, my dream turned out to be real.

I remember hunting high and low to no avail — it was driving us mad. I went to bed that Saturday night still wracking my brains on where the last one might be, running through every suspicious bush and cave entrance I could think of. What happened next still ranks as the weirdest gaming moment I’ve ever experienced, and serves as a reminder that I was definitely the obsessive, slightly weird gamer kid at school!

The answer came to me in a dream — literally.

I dreamt about roaming through the first dungeon, Tail Cave, and finding a crack in one of the room walls. I popped a bomb down and blew open a doorway, walked through — and woke up.

I can still remember the bright sunshine pouring through the pale green curtains as I opened my eyes, and how I leapt out of bed and dashed into the living room to fire up the game. Speeding through the map screens, I made it to the dungeon and found exactly what I was looking for — that elusive twentieth Secret Seashell in a chest behind a cracked wall.

I smile now every time I replay Link’s Awakening and I pass that cracked wall in Tail Cave, remembering how I first came to collect that seashell. I also make sure that I always collect that seashell to take me from nineteen to twenty — it’s become a tradition and a moment in gaming that I’ll never forget.

Both the Windfish and I had been dreaming, but when I awoke, my dream turned out to be real.