[11 February 2004]
Gamers are consistently stuck between the very old and the very new. I wasn’t even old enough to hold a controller when Elite was originally published, but I know more about that game than I do about the majority of Hollywood movies that were released last year. And while we might sit around and rap for hours about the glory of eight bit games, it’s still essential to every gaming crew I’ve ever been a part of to own the latest gadgets and platforms.
Nintendo, with the recent release of the Legend of Zelda Collector’s Disc, seems perfectly aware of and eager to capitalize on this fact. The disc contains four older Zelda games and a demo of the latest one. The original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Legend of Zelda and it’s sequel, The Adventure of Link, are there to meet our desire for the very old. The presentation of all this on the GameCube and the inclusion of the Wind Waker demo are there to meet the requirement of the very new. Trying to bridge the gap between these comes Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, both originally released for the Nintendo 64 (N64).
The ports of both the NES games are flawless—including all of the original flaws. The games slow down with too many sprites on the screen, the hit detection of those irritable Darknuts is easily fooled, and Link is still right handed when he faces right (he’s ordinarily left handed, at least in the Legend of Zelda). Yes, I know I’ve spent too much time playing these games if this is the stuff I notice. But after all, gamers are a terrifically nostalgic bunch of people. We might be protesting outside their corporate headquarters (or whining on their official forums) if Nintendo had attempted to fix any of this for the new package.
The other two full games, however, have not been given that sacrosanct treatment. The graphics have been given a boost, to take advantage of the newer hardware, and the sound in Majora’s Mask actually suffers slightly from the transition. The improved graphics are there, no doubt, to remind us of the very new, while the sound alteration is surely a result of Nintendo deciding to invest their programmers’ time on something more lucrative (working out every last kink in moving a piece of software from one platform to another can be very labor intensive). Which begs the question of what it is that makes it acceptable to present modified versions of the N64 games (for better and worse) while leaving the NES games in their pristine states.
Is there some time in the age of a cultural artifact at which it becomes sacred and you may only enjoy a “true” replica? This would mean it’s okay to toy with and reinvent Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time because they haven’t yet joined the canon of historical videogames (assuming they ever will). But if they are inducted, say ten years from now, which version will make it into those sacred halls—the originals, Ocarina of Time/Master Quest (an earlier promotion to boost sales of Wind Waker), or these latest releases?
With Metroid: Zero Mission‘s impending release, I can’t help but notice that there must be a point at which games will move beyond this untouchable state and once again be open to fresh vision. Will we soon be ready for a Legend of Zelda: Redux? After beating the original game three times in the last two months, I certainly hope so, because I’m starting to feel like the Legend of Zelda is ready for the very new, and this isn’t it.