Today, through a memory of mine, I want to address an issue that I’m sure is close to the wounded hearts of Zelda fans the world over. It’s a one of those “firsts” we have all undoubtedly shared; and in many cases, a terrifying first brought on at the hands of someone we thought we could trust — a friend, a loved one, perhaps even a parent or guardian.
I implore you, dear reader — read on and share my anguish, for I know I am not alone.
I’ll sift back through the sands of time and brush off the memory of my first playthrough of A Link to the Past, my first ever Zelda experience and one that I hold dear to this day, despite the betrayal I came to suffer. A friend had loaned me his copy of the game and I was loving every minute of it — I’d never played a game like it. It was my first experience of a game with a true sense of adventure and where a pivotal story, rather than in-game mechanics, drove the action. I was (significantly) younger then than I am now and not as well versed in the ways of gaming, or sadly, the ways of life, and the inevitability of disloyalty.
I remember I had fumbled my way through a series of battles and shuffled my way into Kakariko Village; whilst I had only a lone heart left I was keen to get back into battle. I was cautious about chopping down bushes to look for hearts — I was an impetuous and hasty youth, prone to standing on mines or walking into a newly revealed enemy — so I headed in search of a few pots to smash. Unbeknownst to me, a cold deception was about to befall me.
My friend, a seasoned Zelda player, was watching from the couch and offered a piece of advice — one that would come to fill me with dread just a few short moments later.
“Just keep hitting the chickens; you know they give you three hearts, right?”
So off I went, dear reader, as so many of us have upon the orders of a trusted companion; I hammered that B button and swiped at the innocent Cucco sprite over and over again.
And that, of course, was when the inevitable happened.
I share this experience with you now because I want to break the cycle. I want to end the pain.
A swarm of vengeful, 16-bit poultry swarmed the screen, clucking relentlessly and pecking at me with a fury I could not have anticipated. It didn’t take them long to exact their revenge. My lifeless body lay face down at the centre of the screen and I was faced with the cold reality of the “Game Over” screen; my ears ringing with the sound of my so-called “friend” cackling maniacally from across the room.
It took me a long time to come to terms with what happened that afternoon, but eventually, with time, the pain dulled. I even thought that the need for retribution had burned out; but alas, I am but a man and am now ashamed to say that eventually, I too perpetuated this evil.
A few years later, sitting alongside my young nephew and watching him play Link’s Awakening on the Super Game Boy, I saw that he was running low on hearts. A dark grin spread across my face, seeing a chance to finally right the wrong heaped upon me all those years ago. I leant over and without an ounce of remorse stated, “If you keep hitting that chicken it’ll give you three hearts”
His mother, my sister, was furious, and I suffered a great deal of earache and a loss of pocket money as a result.
I’ve spoken to many Zelda fans since that fateful day and have heard so many similar stories from far and wide. It’s like a disease — a curse even — that sweeps the fandom like a long and dark shadow cast by the very Triforce itself. I share this experience with you now because I want to break the cycle. I want to end the pain.
I hope, dear friends, that my words and The Flight of the Cuccos can teach you the valuable life lessons that I took all too long to learn: that you shouldn’t always believe everything you’re told; that taking your frustrations out on others only keeps a cycle of negativity going; and that you should never, ever, try to be a big shot and pick on those seemingly weaker than you, because I can guarantee that they will definitely have more friends than you and they’ll all crash the party.