At work, I’m known as a bit of a perfectionist — in fact, my colleagues have been known to throw around phrases like “OCD”, “robotic”, and “anal” when it comes to the way I go about my work. Admittedly, my desk is always ‘just so’, and I do tend to go about tasks in a very standardized step-by-step fashion. It really bugs me if I make a mistake, and I go to great lengths to investigate what it was I did wrong and why; eager to rationalize and learn. Maybe my colleagues’ comments are onto something.

My perfectionist streak hasn’t carried over much into my outlook on gaming, though. I’m a fan of pouring through as much of a game as I can, but I don’t have the time to search high and low for every collectible or unlock the super-elite achievements. I know I could save myself a bunch of time by Googling some stuff, but I’m not a big believer in that either — if I need someone else to tell me where something is, then I might as well have not found it at all. Saying that, I’m not impervious to the lure of gaming perfection, and just a few years ago I came within touching distance whilst replaying Ocarina of Time.

My nephew and I have very similar tastes in games, and we both love Link’s first outing on the N64. He and I often get together and play an old game over the course of a weekend, passing the controller between one another every hour or so until we’ve finished it. When we decided to play Ocarina of Time– a game we’ve both completed many times before — there could be only one goal: all the Pieces of Heart, all the Gold Skulltulas, zero deaths — everything.  We wanted perfection.

So, we set off into Hyrule, keen to conquer Ocarina once and for all. Everything was going smoothly early on, as would be expected. We sped through the Great Deku Tree (may he rest in peace), stormed through the Dodongo’s Cavern, and were in-and-out of Lord Jabu-Jabu before we knew it. Drawing the Master Sword and growing up, the challenge intensified a little but we handled everything as expected — plenty of Gold Skulltulas in the bag, a hearty collection of Poe Ghosts and more Heart Containers than we seemed to have any use for.

Then, like seemingly every story tinged with sadness that’s set against the backdrop of Ocarina, the Water Temple reared its ugly head and the unthinkable happened. Now, I’ll readily admit that I get so caught up in griping about the puzzles in the Water Temple that I always forget one of the most annoying fights in the whole of the game — the battle against Dark Link.

I entered that room shrouded in illusion, and my heart sank. Dark Link always killed me in my playthroughs. I took a deep breath and tried to give myself a confidence boost; I knew I had a few fairies and had been in a good vein of form all session. Soothed, but not entirely convinced, I unpaused the game and got down to it.

Things did not go well.

The mirror moves and counterattacks took their toll on me, and I began to panic. Before I knew it, I had used my final fairy and was bleep, bleep, bleeping my way towards defeat. My nephews’ mood was swinging back and forth between vocal excitement and nervous, stony silence — I could feel the pressure. I played it calm for a while, probing my way back into the battle and when I saw my opportunity, I struck…

And I died.

Dark Link

Ironically, after firing the file back up again, I walked back in and hammered seven shades of silver out of him, but that didn’t matter anymore — perfection was lost. We continued through the game all the same and did succeed in collecting everything else, something neither of us had ever done before. We took a good sense of achievement from that, but it wasn’t what either of us had hoped for when we’d started the game.

It’s a source of ribbing even to this day — I’ve never been allowed to forget that I was responsible for that ‘001’ on the file select screen, and I know I won’t be allowed to atone for my mistake until I finally get that perfect file.

‘000’ — I’m coming for you.