Video games are a hobby that, for a short time, ran in my family. My older sister has “fond” memories of having me in her lap while I was two, trying to press the buttons on her SNES controller while she played video games, and I would supposedly mess her up. Because my older sister and mother liked to play games, we had many video games for me to try. Our family was pretty well off, and I still remember multiple boxes of NES and SNES games to choose from. Though I grew up predominately with the SNES, our NES still got quite a bit of use out of me, and it was all for one particular game: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.

Upon hearing this title, many might cringe or cry foul. As many fans are aware, Zelda II is often criticized for its drastic change in gameplay from the original. The game is a 2D side-scroller, has an experience point system, difficult combat and gameplay that feels unfair at times, and there really aren’t any puzzles outside of just wandering until you find the object you need and then give it to the NPC who needs it.

If you’re one who lambastes Zelda II then I’m sure this next statement will make you cringe: My first Zelda game was Zelda II.

Despite owning a plethora of games to choose from, my mother and sister never actually bought the original Zelda. Instead, their favorite was Zelda II, and they talked about and played it all the time. Naturally, I gravitated towards the game and tried it myself. The cartridge being gold and shiny certainly helped in making that choice. Zelda II is, of course, an NES game, and it has that difficulty I mentioned above. I never got very far in many of my attempts to play it, but even still, I still loved playing the game. I found the strategy for Iron Knuckles where you can jump and stab them at the top of their helmet and constantly damage them without having to deal with the admittedly clunky sword combat all on my own; an achievement I’m still proud of.

Due to the relatively esoteric nature of older games at the time, the fact I was only 4 when I first played the game, and that you had to have a subscription to Nintendo Power to get all those amazing and hot hints and tricks, I never really got farther than the first palace. At some point, I’d put the game down and moved on to something else like Gradius III or ActRaiser. Even though I enjoyed those games more, Zelda II has something going for it that those games don’t.

Around the time that I was born, my older sister eventually moved out of our home, and as opposed to my other siblings, I never had many chances to spend time with her. We had a large age difference between us, and sometimes I even felt slightly intimidated by her because of how much older she was. Although my memories back then are blurry, I do remember that the one thing we could bond over was video games. I loved watching her play them when she was over to visit, and even now that we’re older, we’ll still occasionally talk about video games when they come up in conversation.

Not to mention, she would tell me stories about how she and my mother played through the original Contra together and actually managed to beat it, or how they could never get past the first stage of Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts, or of course, tales of them playing Zelda II together. Because of this, Zelda II is a game we all love to talk about and reminisce. Even though our memories of the game are different, they’re still relatable and something we can both share in.

Although nowadays things are different, and between me, my mother, and my sister, I’m the only one who still keeps up with or plays video games regularly. As with all things, time passes and people will change. Our hobbies and interests grow stronger or die out entirely and we embrace other hobbies to pass our time with. And yet despite those changes, we can always look back on things in our lives that even though the passion may be gone in the now, it remains in our hearts. For me and my sister and mother, Zelda II is a reminder of who we once were and the realization of who we are now. It is, in an almost completely literal sense, a link to the past for us of days gone by.

Every now and again, I’ll hear people speak of Zelda II and it’ll usually be the same song and dance of all of its shortcomings. Though I disagree with all of those and think the game is quite enjoyable especially once you get used to the platforming and combat, Zelda II will always be a game that makes me smile. Thinking about it and remembering it brings me nothing but happy memories of a time now lost, and it makes me even happier to have a game I can connect with people that are important to me with. Zelda II isn’t the best game in the franchise, nor is it my favorite Zelda, but it’s the one that makes me smile the most. And for me, that’s all that really matters.