When I first played Four Swords Adventures, I was relatively new to the Zelda series and had only played a couple of games prior. I knew some of the lore and history of the series, and I had fought Dark Link in Ocarina of Time, but I wasn’t aware that an evil version of Link was a recurring or popular theme in the series.
I wish I had known how important this type of enemy was to The Legend of Zelda. I might have been ready for Shadow Link and his constant (and often obnoxious) presence in the game. Many times this game played out like a grudge match between the four Links and their dark counterpart.
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The game established Shadow Link as a rival adversary at the very start when he abducted Zelda and taunted Link in the shrine where the Four Sword resided. This really threw me off. I never had the first encounter with a villain go that way. To simply knock me away whenever I approached and jump to the other side of the screen while letting out an annoying cackle was an effective way to get under my skin.
I knew the plan was to force me to draw the Four Sword, which would unleash the monster Vaati from his prison. I wasn’t upset that an evil demon was about to be
I drew the sword, Vaati was freed, Link split into four people, and Shadow Link ran away as soon as he got what he wanted. I didn’t even get one of those standard, no-impact-on-anything “prologue fights” that happen in a lot of adventure games. Nope, I just got to watch the villains get the better of Link three times in a five-minute period. At least once that was done (and I was done listening to Kaepora Gaebora ramble) I could finally get down to business and begin the adventure.
I expected to not see Shadow Link again until much later in the game. Maybe at a crucial plot point and near the end as a boss fight before Vaati, something like that. Nope, he showed up on the fourth screen of the first level of the game. He tried to pull the same trick from before by jumping away when I came close, but by means of the Links’ teamwork I was able to actually land blows and kill him, or so I thought. He screamed after one of the Links landed a final blow, then he spun around, sunk into the ground, and ran away in literal shadow form.
I was confused, but I figured out what was going on after I got a little further into the level and had to deal with him again. He wasn’t just a secondary villain. Shadow Link was going to show up repeatedly and entirely for the sake of annoying me.
Shadow Link did everything he could to interrupt my progress throughout the adventure. He caused pandemonium for most of the residents of Hyrule, like when he went to remarkable lengths to frustrate the people living in the Blue Maidens’ village; he tried to blow me up with massive bombs that forced me to hide in various areas before they exploded; and he occasionally appeared in duplicate to fight me, which is how — to my horror — I learned that he could make copies of himself.
Later in the game, I finally learned the truth about the origin of my persistent, perpetual pursuer: He was a creation of the Dark Mirror, a magical item that could create dark copies of people. Ganon, the true mastermind behind the attack on Hyrule, had stolen the mirror and was using it to create countless Shadow Links, and the only way to put an end to the infestation was to retrieve it.
That moment finally came in the final chapter of the game. In the second-to-last level, “The Dark Cloud,” I finally located the stolen Dark Mirror, but it was secured in a barrier and guarded by a number of Dark Links. When I say “number of Dark Links” I actually mean an endless army, as the Dark Mirror would continually create more of the demons whenever any of them died.
Luckily, after I had defeated enough of them, the recently-rescued Princess Zelda arrived on the scene to deliver a much-needed deus ex machina and used her power to keep the mirror from creating more. I finished off the remaining copies and Zelda reclaimed the mirror, putting an end to Ganon’s dark purpose for it. At long last, the Shadow Link threat was no more.
I could finally focus my attention on defeating Vaati and Ganon, but after all the trouble Shadow Link had put me through, those two only felt like leftover loose ends to deal with. I had already achieved my goal and got my revenge on the dark doppelganger, proving which one of us was the Weakest Link.