There’s a lot of games I haven’t beaten for one reason or another, mostly because they’re extremely long or some psychological damage has been linked to them. Assassin’s Creed II is one of the latter, as well as most RPGs. It’s a genre I love without compunction, but they’re always so long and the act of grinding always leaves me cold. There’s only one game that stymied me for well over a year that I kept trying playing and trying to beat, however, and that was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the original Game Boy.

The year was 1993. My sister had actually gotten the game for Christmas but she was largely uninterested in it, and I was very interested in this, my first Zelda game. Never before had I experienced such a world of wonder and adventure, and it was all so new and wonderful! It took me a few days to beat the first dungeon, which was largely straightforward. Getting to the second dungeon was also no big deal.

That was when my trouble began.

My first issue was that I was unable to reach the boss because I was unfamiliar with the nomenclature of Zelda enemies. The puzzle said I had to defeat three enemies in a certain order, with the Keese and Stalfos first and last, though I can’t remember which was first and which was last. All I know is that, at that point, I had no idea what the hell a Keese or a Stalfos was which resulted in struggling for a very long time. When I finally did get the Boss Key, I had no idea how it had happened and so I went onto the boss, which was this guy:

I was in third grade at the time and the link between the dungeon’s item (the power bracelet) and the boss (that genie) didn’t register. What did register was that touching an enemy would hurt you. This had been taught to me over the course of many games and I didn’t want to touch the bottle because I thoguht it would hurt me. I fought the genie into its bottle and tried to bomb the bottle, shoot it with arrows, boomerang it, whatever item I had except for the power bracelet.

This resulted in an extended period (at least a year) where I would wander around Koholint Island and explore as much as I could. I actually managed to see quite a lot despite not beating the second dungeon and not having a majority of the navigation items. Since this was also the time before the Internet, I was completely stuck. I kept trying. I kept trying to fight that damned genie and failing. I thought that, perhaps, I had missed something and restarted the game over and over again. I became skilled in all the mini-games available to me. To this day, I can defeat the crane game to the point where I can get the bow and arrow before I even enter the first dungeon. The bow and arrow is 980 rupees. Each win on the crane game is 30 rupees and costs 10. You have to win it forty-nine times to get that much. I played that crane game so much.

I don’t remember how or why I figured out how to defeat the genie, if I even figured it out on my own. You had to, of course, chuck the bottle against the wall after picking it up. The rest of the game took me a few weeks to beat after that, and today, I can beat the whole thing in about a day. I don’t know why I told you all of this, but there we are. I haven’t beaten other Zelda games, though. I got stuck on the first room of the last dungeon of A Link to the Past. I couldn’t figure out how to beat the last boss in The Minish Cap. I got to Death Mountain in Zelda II and decided it wasn’t worth continuing. And I just quit Spirit Tracks because I liked it and didn’t want it to end. Then there’s the ones I haven’t played (Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild, and a lot of the spin-off games) but someday, I will rectify all of that.

Well, except Zelda II. Because seriously, screw Death Mountain.