August 1987. When I was 11 years old, Mike.A (my next door neighbor and BFF) got the original Legend of Zelda for his birthday. We had it the *first week* the game was released... and right after Nintendo Power announced their First 10 People to Beat Zelda Get Their Name Printed in the Magazine contest. I want to say that I slept over Mike's house five days straight (???), playing in shifts, taking turns drawing maps, until we rescued Sweet Sweet Princess Zelda. And when we called up the Nintedo Hotline (CONVINCED we were the first in the country to do so) the guy on the other end told us that someone else has beaten us to the last Top 10 spot *that day*. (Can you imagine? We'd be Zelda royalty! Oh wait, maybe he just told that to all the kids who called? That fucker!). By the way, I *wish* I could remember the questions we had the answer to prove that we beat it. (Mike?) Anyway, so yeah, that was the beginning.
Christmas 1988. The two biggest games of the season are Super Mario 2 and Zelda II (Adventure of Link) and, oh man, I wanted Zelda 2 more than I'd ever wanted anything before. Days before Christmas, I started organized my arsenel of Nintendo Power articles - bookmarking all the preview maps + hints + tips - *just in case*
Mom Santa was able to snag a copy (tuns out my Mom was the QUEEN of stalking Toys R Us trucks back in the NES heydays). Anyway, I was so excited at the thought of Zelda 2 that I couldn't sleep at all that Christmas Eve. I ended up sneaking downstairs around 3am, quietly tearing open the corner of any gift that even remotely resembled the size and shape of a Nintendo game I hopes of easing the anticipation. I found what I was looking for (gold colored box under Santa's proprietary wrapping paper) and ran upstairs to continue my pre-game cramming (I. Am. Such. A. Nerd.) I beat that thing in like 10 days.
Thanksgiving 1998. I'm 21 and living in NYC. Though Nintendo 64 had been out for a while, I had no reason to purchase one till the day they released Zelda (Ocarina of Time). Now, this was the first 3D one (!!) and for anyone who got sucked into Mario 64 like I did (er, we played in shifts - *6 days straight* back at Syracuse), you know how amazing this was. Over Thanksg, Jonathan and I both bought a N64 and a copy of Zelda with the assumption that we'd start playing at Thanksgiving and see who could get the furthest by Christmas time. I lasted about two weeks. It all ended when my roommate (Rosie) came back from a weekend away only to find me sitting on the floor of our apt in the dark, sketching out maps and trying to figure out how to get Link on that goddamned horse. She: "Have you even left the apartment?" Me: "What day is it?" I hadn't seen sunlight in 3 days... most likely didn't shower for three days. When she flicked on the lights I had one of those "What am I doing with my life?" moments and quit cold turkey. (ps: this is first Zelda game I didn't finish).
March 2003. I'm 26 and in my first year of grad school @ NYU. Despite my troubled past with Zelda, I bought a GameCube on the day the newest Zelda was released (Wind Waker). Classes were skipped, projects went unfinished and I found myself once again sitting on the floor of my apt at 4am drawing maps. After about a week my girlfriend at the time (Giselle) was like, "You need to choose between me and that game." (Me: "Can't I just bring it over to your apt?" Her: "NO!!!!"). After neglecting school + gf + life in general I eventually quit cold turkey... again. (and hence: Zelda Game That Went Unfinished #2).
Anyway, so I'm writing this as I'm on the Amtrak back to Boston. Pretty beat up from Kevin.K's bday Saturday night (yes. pics. soon.) and getting all ants-in-my-pants-excited because right before I got on the train I picked up a Nintendo Wii, and yes, the new new new Zelda game (Twilight Princess). (By the way, when I say "picked up" I actually mean "went to cash in the Golden Ticket I acquired by standing in line for 3 hours with a bunch of other nerds in NYC to get my name on the pre-order list")
So, in case I drop off the planet for a week or so, you'll know where to find me.
Update: I'm now 5 hrs, 40 mins deep and stuck in the Forest Dungeon. I've got the two monkeys in tow, but I can't figure out how to make the wind start spinning (which I think is what I need to rotate the wooden bridge 90 degrees). To anyone else playing: Yes, I already turned into a wolf and back again (lame) and it took me no fewer than 40 mins to catch a stoopid fish in town (the Wii equalivent of getting on the horse in Ocarina of Time??). I had a moment last night at like 2:30am where I was stuck at this locked door in the Forest Dungeon, only to realize five minutes later that the only way to unlock it was to light the four torches in the middle of the room - the quintessential Zelda game mechanic. See, I fall for this same thing *every single time* (and the 800 other little things just like it). I think the experience of having the exact same "a ha!" moment I had 20 years ago - by doing the same thing I did 20 years ago ("light the torches, stoopid!") - is what keeps me hopelessly addicted to the series.
ps: Yes, I also worked through the SNES vesion (Link to the Past) back in 1992 though I was much more of a SF2 nerd back then.