Today marks one year since my last day of unemployment — and what a day it was! Knowing I was soon to be initiated into corporate America, I spent my last day of freedom engaged in a task I'd long overlooked: completing the second quest of the original Legend of Zelda.
Oh, I'd finished this classic quest many times before, but it'd probably been 15 years since I'd last done so. In that span, I had periodically revisited the first quest, confirming that I still knew every square pixel of Hyrule's Overworld and Underworld — the result of untold hours of my childhood spent exploring its ruins and poring over its maps in Nintendo Power. I was comfortable with this routine and found solace in the motions. But the second quest? That was a whole 'nuther story.
The second quest's challenge is twofold. First, it's simply harder: there are new tricks to learn (like walking through walls), strong enemies come at you sooner, and old men are as likely to rob you of your heart containers as they are to bequeath them. But second, and more important, is the unfamiliarity and strangeness of it all. Long before A Link to the Past brought gamers to the Dark World, this game's second quest took what was familiar and made it foreign. Though geography is roughly the same, everything about this Overworld is even more reluctant to reveal its secrets than before. And since the second quest is not the default adventure on which Link sets out, the times it'd been mastered and the players who have done so is all the fewer.
So I dedicated a Sunday to revisiting this brave old world, resolved to see my way to the end without any assistance, cheats, or FAQs. And you know what? I was astonished at how many memories came flooding back to me. Walking past a river, I'd double back and scrutinize the landscape, sensing something was out of place. Many bombs later, a gaping hole invited me into a dungeon, and I knew I'd found what a ghost of a memory had only hinted would be there. Altogether, it took me five hours to meet Ganon and rescue his captive princess. That may not sound like much in this age of 80-hour RPGs, but consider that the record time for beating the second quest is less than 40 minutes.
It wasn't the first time I'd beaten the second quest, and I hope it won't be the last. But that final day of freedom was perfectly spent revisiting my youth, slowly yet surely making my way to Spectacle Rock.