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The Legend of Zelda. Second Quest. Search for the Seventh Dungeon. Day 8.

May 18, 2012

I don’t know how much longer I can hold out.

Until now, a random survey was enough. Explore the world I know, set some bombs in the conspicuous spots, explore the dungeons as thoroughly as I can muster, and try to burn every tree I find. And now, it’s suddenly not enough.

I almost gave up at the sixth dungeon. It almost had me. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I’d be blowing a whistle to make a gravestone disappear. I’d tried to move that same gravestone countless times before that, sure that I had simply not pushed for long enough, or perhaps that I had let my fingers slip and gave it a crooked push. It never budged. It was waiting for a melody.

The Legend of Zelda‘s second quest has that effect on you. Every time it breaks the rules that the first quest laid out, every time it opens up one more possible place to hide something, you don’t feel as though you’ve accomplished something by making that possibility a reality. Rather, there’s a despair with uncovering the secrets of the second quest. It’s the knowledge, once you blow the whistle and open up a random stairwell in the desert, that you’re going to have to blow the whistle in every single screen of the overworld if you want to uncover all its secrets.

Scratch that — it’s not just the secrets you need to uncover. It’s the dungeons. These are the necessary pieces of conquering the quest. And they could be anywhere.

It’s the terror of the unknown. It breaks you down. It makes GameFAQs look awfully enticing.

I mean seriously, are you kidding me with this?

Part of my goal in returning to these old games was to inspire the nostalgia of playing games before the internet age. Playing games felt different in a time before spoilers were inevitable and answers were readily available. When you ran into a dead end and you had no idea how to progress, you typically had three options: crowdsource an answer from any friends who might also have been playing the game, spend some money to call a hotline or buy a strategy guide, or just run bull-headed back into the game convinced that this was it, this was the attempt when a solution was going to become clear.

Really, it’s not that different from the paid-DLC model that instantly levels up your character. How much money could Nintendo have made if they had come up with a way to offer $4.99 paid “Dungeon-Finder” DLC? What if they offered the Master Sword as a bonus?

It certainly would have been awfully enticing in a time like this.

At least it was obvious what to do here.

I mean, what kind of sadistic game encourages you to not only bomb every wall in every dungeon, but attempt to walk through it? The very first dungeon in the second quest makes it very clear that the map means nothing, so it doesn’t even matter if you think there’s a room there. You’d better try and get through that wall, or risk missing something very important.

I thought I could hold out. I did. I thought I had the patience to look under every rock, to methodically search every room. I am operating under a few basic assumptions: there is a maximum of one visible or hidden door, combined, in every overworld panel. Every treasure necessary to uncover a higher-numbered dungeon can be found either in the overworld or in a lower-numbered dungeon.

Rafts need docks to be launched.

Even the master sword can’t break down a wall like a bomb can.

How do I know that any of these are even valid? In my searching, I’ve found the entrances to the eighth and ninth dungeons. How do I know that I won’t find the entrance to the seventh dungeon somewhere inside the eighth dungeon?

That’s the issue. I don’t know. And I don’t know how much longer I can keep up the search.

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