Like any of Nintendos franchises, The Legend of Zelda has gone through the ringer as far as merchandising is concerned. Probably the biggest time was the late 80’s when the NES was at its peak. This was when all sorts of video game related stuff hit the stores. As expected, there were hits and misses as far as products went, but considering the hype at the time, it was all treasure.
Books and magazines were no exception as Nintendo Power was big right from the start of publication. Publishers knew where to target and school book fairs were a great place to get your NES fix, no matter how much they could be scraping the barrel to come up with story ideas. Marketing was more about quantity than quality in a lot of regards.
At the time, The Legend of Zelda series consisted of the original NES game and its sequel Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, so there was only so much that could be done (and only so much that could be made into a toy) using the canon that was offered. There were, naturally, the things everyone loves to harp on…
The clues that were a little vague or somewhat lost in translation…
And of course, there was the annoying issue of explaining to the ol parents that, no, the main character is NOT Zelda….
In the early 90’s, the Super Nintendo brought out some of the best entries to all of the Nintendo franchises and Zelda 3 was no exception. A Link To The Past introduced elements that not only gave new life to the series, but even gave later entries a run for their money.
Again, A Link To The Past was an amazing epic. Link begins his quest by running out in the night in torrential downpour. Weather patterns had been done in games before, but they were few and far between and this game captured it exceedingly well. Starting right off with breaking into Castle Hyrule was such a rush and an amazing introduction. I think I beat it in about a week or so and was amazed by its profound and somber ending. Now around the start of 1992, Nintendo Power began running chapters of Shotari Ishinomoris manga of A Link To The Past – one chapter per issue for the whole year. And, like the game, it was nothing short of brilliant.
For those who don’t know, Shotaro Ishinomori created Cyborg 009, Hotel, and Masked Rider among countless others series. He made it into the Guinness World Records for the most published comics by a single author. There is even the Ishinomori Manga Museum in Japan that is dedicated solely to his extensive catalog of work.
You can probably think of a dozen times off the top of your head where a retelling or adaptation of a story is absolutely butchered. Hollywood and licensed games are notorious for leaving you wondering if the creators even once viewed the original work. As you read the Link To The Past manga, you can be certain Ishinomori took his time and studied the source material. The flow of the game’s story is present and enough creative liberties were taken and twists added to keep things fresh, but without any of the said additions causing too much of a stir or distraction. Characters are added (mostly for the Dark World) or expanded upon for dramatic flow: Roam, a conflicted warrior and descendant of the mage knights was added, as was Esmerelda, a fairy companion that served as inspiration for Navi later on (though Esmerelda isn’t nearly as grating).
On a more personal note, when this book came out, life was a bit rough. Middle school is usually no picnic for anyone and my experience was no exception. My friends and I were often called the “Nerd Herd” – and not always just by other students. With a penchant for Monty Python quotes, and being into Weird Al, coin collecting, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 during the grunge era – it must have seemed as though we were asking to be targets. Video games and books offered respite – a beautiful escape from the day to day troubles. I’d hold out until the weekends and spend many an afternoon reading this manga from beginning to end, stacking my Nintendo Powers all open to the first page of each chapter so as not to miss a beat, then just drowning myself in Ishinomori’s vision of Hyrule. A sad state of affairs, when you wish to live in a world of life and death struggles with monsters and sorcerers than cope with the real one.
I can’t recommend this book enough. It keeps close enough to its source material so you know that it’s being respected, but it also takes enough artistic liberty that it comes across as fresh and original, even if you’ve played A Link To The Past ten billion times. Ishinomori’s work is alive and energetic and it’s effortless to bond to the characters and face the turmoil along the way with them – all the way to its lonesome, yet deep and beautiful ending. The first edition of the complied graphic novel was extremely rare and expensive but it was put back into print in Summer 2015. Pick up a copy and immerse yourself in Ishinomori’s vision of Hyrule.
The 2015 rerelease
Lose yourself in a fantasy world…
… Find some peace along the way.
Michael A. Jones firstname.lastname@example.org www.nerdsintheburbs.com
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