In my middle and high school years, I played a ton of Smash Bros. Ever since Brawl came out, my two friends who I’d visit every week would all play together, and at one point or another, they got good. Like, really good. It had turned out that they had started playing competitively, and if I wanted a chance of winning, I had to step up my game.

Realm of Memories is a series where we reflect on our absolute favorite moments in The Legend of Zelda games. These could be the times we first fell in love with a game, were moved by the events of the story or actions of a character, felt triumphant when overcoming a tough boss or challenge, or we had an experience so unique that the adventure truly became our own. The Zelda series has touched our lives in many ways, and just as Hyrule has endless stories to share, so do our writers!

We’d play this game every time we got together, and I’d practice a bit on my own console at home. I stuck to a few select characters: Link, Marth, Peach, Zero Suit Samus, and of course, my main, Zelda. As well as having been a huge fan of Princess Zelda for the longest time, I could also control her the best. Her movement was fluid enough for me to zip across the stages with ease and control her magic beautifully. With enough practice, I was eventually starting to catch up to the boys and even win some matches. It wasn’t long before there was an equal chance of us winning — with or without items.

I never got into the big competitions, but my library would host Brawl tournaments once or twice every month and a few friends and I would usually join in the fun. There was no official rule, but for the most part, people stuck with one solid character, and I, of course, picked Zelda.

My first opponents and I were called out of the waiting room into the gaming room. I sat down, selected my character, and waited for everyone else to choose theirs. There were a few other kids sitting behind us, spectating like we were at a sporting event. The stage was selected and the battle began. We began fighting and that’s when I heard a few of the guys behind me start to ask, “Who’s playing as Zelda?”

“That would be me,” I answered, keeping my focus on the game. I heard some snickering, but I didn’t let it bother me. I was confident in what I was doing. At some points, there were even some guys cheering for the others to knock Zelda out of the fight. Sorry boys, but that wasn’t happening.

I’ve known for some time that Zelda was always considered a lower tiered character in terms of competitive play. My friends gave me a quick rundown of how things worked in big-time competitions and learning that the character I loved to use the most was supposedly a “bad character” hurt at first, but to be honest, I got over it. I wasn’t going to stop playing as her for a silly reason like that. Zelda was my favorite to play as. I knew her moveset inside and out and could control her with ease. Sure, there were other characters I could have picked instead like Link, but as much as I do like playing as him, there was something different about Zelda. I practiced to become good with the character I wanted to and I wasn’t going to back down from my decision.

I lasted throughout the entire match without losing a single life and took first place within the round. We all congratulated each other and most of us went back to the waiting room. I decided to stay inside and spectate with the guys this time around. They had quickly changed their demeanor and had given me a few compliments as I sat down, which was a pleasant surprise. I mean, I know they were just being guys and that there was no real ill intent in their playful banter, but it was nice to see that they did appreciate the skill that I, a girl gamer playing as a female character, had demonstrated. In fact, whenever I went up to play since then, they’d actually be cheering for Zelda!

At some point during the preliminary rounds, one boy chose Jigglypuff as his character. The guys all started laughing. I shook my head and told them, “Don’t laugh! That Jigglypuff is going to win.” There’s no way someone would pick Jigglypuff in a tournament if they didn’t know how to play as her, and boy was I right. This player had some serious skills and had once again made all the boys in the audience cease their playful taunting. I really wanted this player to move on to the finals, which he did — and so did I.

The final match of the tournament was between Jigglypuff and me. Nearly everyone who entered the tournament was in the room watching at this point. The two of us faced off on Final Destination in an epic battle that lasted quite a while. He used Jigglypuff’s rollout attack, which I’d counter with Nayru’s Love. I’d use Din’s Fire which he’d dodge and jump in with a pound. It was a sight to behold. The crowds cheered as we finished our match and I landed the final KO with Zelda’s mid-air kick (which I liked to call her “flying foot”). We shook hands and I had won the tournament. Even if I had lost, I would have been okay with it, though. I was proud of us. Two characters who were laughed at and teased because they were considered weak or low tier coming out on top, taking down all the other characters to get where we were; It was such a great feeling!

After that, the host of the tournament would battle the winner of the night. There was no prize or anything special if you beat him, but it was more a rite of passage, in a way. He was a very good player, also being a competitive one himself. He was the cool college student who knew his stuff, so if anyone could beat him, it was a significant boost to your gaming reputation. We sat down and began, and the match lasted a very long time.

I can’t remember who he played as or which one of us even won the match. I just remember the two of us sitting there, fully concentrated on the game, trying to knock each other off the stage. It was a very suspenseful match for the both of us that ended in a hearty handshake. He told me I had a lot of skill and that I should consider entering some serious tournaments, and I eventually would try one.

I entered with my two friends who I’d usually play with and to put it simply, I lost. My first match was against another girl who played as Peach and it was an incredible match. The two of us sat there for the longest time battling it out, but overall she came out on top. I don’t mind though. Just like the fight with Jigglypuff, it was awesome that she picked a character she liked rather than being concerned with a character that others spoke highly of. She had mastered Peach just like I had Zelda, which made for a truly fun time.

I never liked the rating of characters. I always believed that playing as your favorite and having fun was much more important than winning, and to that day it has only proven more true for each game this applies to. Even if we do choose “bad characters”, it’s still possible to win, which makes it all the more satisfying. Smash Bros, Pokemon, Fire Emblem — it doesn’t matter which game you play, so long as you’re having fun with the characters you love, you’re playing the game right.