At the end of my last post, I was heading towards Death Mountain, which is south of Hyrule, but first I had to cross the water town of Saria. This town holds two subquests-lookalikes (both mandatory to complete the game, however, so I'm not sure they should be called that way). The first is a woman asking you to retrieve her stolen mirror. You're supposed to get into one of the houses and search under the table. To do that, you need to crouch near the table and press the B button. It's the only place in the whole game where you're supposed to do that, and I'm not sure any hint point to that area. I went there because I remembered the thing, but I'd like to know if there is any way to figure out alone. Granted there are not many houses in the game and this may be the only one that is empty, letting you figure you have to do something there, but I find it kinda harsh, and I think a whole lot of people have been stuck on this one for a long time. It gives you access to the Life spell, which is maybe the most useful one, considering there are not a lot of other ways to regain health back (except for a few fairies here and there and gaining a level in the Life category). I guess the game is winnable without the Life spell, but I can't imagine how hard it may be.
|By the way, isn't it the only moment in 25 years of gaming where Link talks?|
The other subquest is much more obvious. The town is separated in two parts and to cross the river, you need a note from Bagu, a guy living in the forest north of the town. To be honest, I just happened to find him out of sheer luck before arriving into town, and I think it happened to a lot of players before me. In this game, it's heavily recommended to wander around in forests and deserts because a few tiles in the overworld lead you to hidden items (or sometimes, mandatory places like bagu's place). So I got the note from Bagu and can finally cross the bridge to Death Mountain.
Death Mountain is a huge labyrinth of caves, where finding one's way can be difficult (to be honest, just writing a map down on paper can avoid much of the confusion). I say Death Mountain because it's how it's called in the manual (and because it's one of the recurring places of early Zelda games), but it doesn't look like a mountain at all. Thinking about why I felt that way, I realized that 2D adventure games (or any 2D games for that matter) made you accustomed to the fact that north is up. Hence, in The Legend of Zelda, when you arrive to the northern area of the map, you know it's Death Mountain. Here, the mountain is due south and your 8bit player's mind doesn't think of it as a mountain.
|Ok, ok, there are mountains tiles everywhere, but it's south! It doesn't work!|
After vanquishing the labyrinth, you have access to a cave where you find the highly-anticipated hammer, which allows you to break the huge rocks on the cave, and you now have access to a lot of places on the overworld map (including a really useful shortcut between the north and south of Hyrule, avoiding you to cross the "jump" cave and the marsh every time you die). I so went back to every place in Hyrule where I couldn't go before and netted a few hundreds experience points and one or two heart/magic containers. Now I'm ready for the next Palace!
The hammer let me access the last town in Hyrule (or so it seems, big twist coming!), which is the Harbor Town of Mido (not a sage, but still a Ocarina of Time character). There, you'll meet with your first swordmaster. The guy teaches you how to down stab when you jump, which is pretty sweet because it makes dispatching small enemies much easier. Once again, it's highly unusual for games of the era to gain new attacks during the course of the game. It adds greatly to the depth of the combat system, which is highly needed considering the ordeals coming.
|And the guy built his entrance door on the second floor.|
An old woman asking for medicine (which I already found before the quest, once again) grants me entrance to the wise man of the town, who in turn teaches me Fairy! This spell is kinda odd, considering it turns you into a fairy, allowing you to fly for a bit and be much nimbler to avoid enemy attacks. It's mandatory to gain access to the next palace and can greatly help in difficult areas to avoid getting your ass kicked when fire is coming from everywhere.
|Not that manly though...|
The entrance to the tunnel leading to the Palace is well hidden into the huge cemetery south of Mido. You have one guy in the town telling you that you need to "Ask Error of Ruto about the palace". Wait this guy is useful after all! What is great about this is that it really gives the impression you're wandering a living world, where inhabitants know each others. So I came back to Ruto, where Error told me to go "South of King's Tomb", which I assume is the biggest tomb in the cemetery. So I went to King's Tomb and then south. I fell into a hole leading me to the Third Palace.
|By the way, that's what happens when Link falls down. I think he's on meth or something.|
The third palace is a hard one as well, even if I had much less trouble beating it than I did with the second one. The treasure is a raft and the boss is a little different this time. He runs towards you on a horse. You have to avoid his attack, jumping and downstabbing him (yeah, you'd better not overlook the swordmaster in Mido), then, after a few hits, he gets down his horse and fights you as a blue armored knight which you encountered a few times already as common enemies (and who are frighteningly strong and good contenders for this game's MAMA).
|Floating horse that is.|
After felling the beast, I got another experience level and another palace down! It's time to use the raft on the port near Mido and... Gasp! Another whole continent! Hyrule is huge! I couldn't have seen that one coming!!! I'm joking, but when you consider the game in its release year, and seeing that the map in the manual only shows the Western continent (calling it Hyrule), I guess a few people were astonished at this point in the game to discover they only seen half of it. When you remember, Nintendo used the same kind of trick in A Link to the Past telling you only of the first quest (getting back three jewels) before sending on another, much bigger, quest. That's a great way to surprise the player and much rarer nowadays. I think games are becoming too expensive to just hide 50% of the game in the publicities and advertisements...
|I feel like a green-dressed Christopher Columbus!|
And that's it for today, folks. It's time to explore the new continent (which is a huge jump in difficulty) and get to the next palaces. I'll keep you posted!