Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 6 ~Lost Woods~ (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) IN LOVING MEMORY OF HIROSHI YAMAUCHI

Origin: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Composer: Koji Kondo
Plays In: The Lost Woods of Hyrule.
Status: Original Composition

There was once a young boy who, in the far-off times of 1992, held a secret considered sacred to the heart of a young mind. The type of boy whose imagination was stroked by tales of swords and sorcery, the video game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was the perfect outlet for the fantasy adventures he so loved. No longer was he forced to sit back and listen to the stories of bravery found in storybooks, for now he was able to weave such tales for himself. He was the hero in the green cap, tasked with slaying the forces of evil to rescue Princess Zelda of the kingdom of Hyrule. Such a journey was fraught with danger, packed with deadly monsters, dark dungeons, and the ever-looming threat of Ganon, the King of Evil. And, perhaps living up to the mischief typical in young children, he also decided to attack some chickens for the fun of it.


Yet there was one part of his adventure he treasured above all else. To the north of Kakariko Village lay the Lost Woods, a hallowed ground said to house the Sword of Evil's Bane. Entering the sacred forest never failed to take his breath away, for the mist-shrouded surroundings and muted ambiance were more than enough to cloud the woods into an eternal mystery. While the random bandit or sword forgery would interrupt his reverie, nothing topped the moment when he finally located the Master Sword. The forest wildlife pranced along the hero's path as he marched to the altar, ready to fulfill his destiny.

But what truly struck him was the music. A song dipped in serenity and mystery, the Lost Woods theme captured his heart in a feeling he was left unable to describe. It was the reason why he returned to the woods again and again, long after its purpose within the game had been completed. Whether it was the subconscious awakening of a young appreciation for beauty or a desire to relive that epic moment of claiming the sword was unknown, but his imagination burst aflame with the reverie it brought him. It would be cemented as his favorite moment in his gaming career. Many years afterward, the song would continue to represent his idyllic adventures in the world of Hyrule, and he'd be able to look back upon his childhood with a smile.

This young boy, however, was not alone. Another child would have a near-identical experience within the very same time period. And more in the year after that. And countless more in the remaining duration of the Super Nintendo's lifespan. Years would continue to pass on, and yet numerous children continued to discover the forest. Some came across it late in the wintery recesses of 2002, when Nintendo re-released A Link to the Past on the Game Boy Advance. Others discovered it five years later when the game made its first digital release on the Wii's Virtual Console. Yet even more children clutched it close to their hearts in the cracks of the years between, and more since then, and will undoubtly continue to do so as time goes on.

Of course, such an experience is not exclusive to A Link to the Past. What Link's SNES adventure meant to another child was no doubt rivaled by what another child treasured in the romps of Super Mario World's Dinosaur Land. Other children found glory within the alien world of Super Metroid, some found solace within the nostalgic homes of Earthbound, and even more cherished the rest houses deep within Kirby Super Star. But this pattern was not born to the SNES, nor did it end there. Gamers found such moments on the NES, and the Game Boy Color, and the Gamecube, and the DS, and so on.

To think what an astonishing feat it is, then, that these endless experiences of gaming legacies were sprouted within one man. A man who happened to inherit a small-time trading card company and gradually transformed into popular toy producer that exploded into the video game giant it is today. 

My gaming heroes include the usual suspects: Shigeru Miyamoto, Mashiro Sakurai, Shigesato Itoi, Koji Kondo, Charles Martinet, etc. As far as I'm aware, Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi was not a gamer. The transition from cards to toys to electronic gaming was nothing more than a set of calculated risks that had a likely chance falling into the depths of obscurity; in other words, the man was a businessman through and through. But the man was fully aware of how to make a great video game, and it required just one ingredient: to create a video game that will stick with the masses, one needs not a team of highly-trained engineers, but of devoted artists that can bring any concept to life.

Such a mantra might not sit well with certain game developers (including Nintendo's own Miyamoto), but moments such as the Lost Woods scenario provided above would not have been possible without this vision. The next time I remove the Master Sword from its pedestal, or soar to the skies with a Wing Cap, or even take a stroll down the streets of Twoson or Celadon City, I'll be sure to think of the man who made such feats possible. The very feats that inspired countless childhoods like my own.

Leave Luck to Heaven, Mr. Yamauchi.

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