I imagine it must have been back in the summer of 1992, and just a scant six months earlier having received a Super Nintendo, I could still be found plopped in front of the tube, controller in hand. Things don't seem real when you're not plugged in, you know. Turn on, tune in, drop out, and all that. I was hooked, there's no doubt, and on one game in particular.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The Super Nintendo had promised mind-blowing graphics and entertainment, with technology that would knock 8-bit systems on their spriteless asses. I had been a regular subscriber to Nintendo Power, and had seen the commercials. I knew what was coming, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I also knew that I was kept up nights because I could think of nothing other than eventually having even a small moment to play The Legend of Zelda. The graphics were unbelievable, especially when compared to its predecessors, and the possibilities that the memory of a Super Nintendo created for the depth and intricacy of this RPG were nearly endless. I had no idea the length of story I was getting myself into, and I loved every single second of it.
Christmas finally rolled around, and there was my bundle of joy, wrapped snugly in his red wrapping paper, delicately taped for no good reason. I was like a dog being given a bite of steak. You could have wrapped it in shit and I would have swallowed it, with my tail wagging for more, before giving it even a second look. Oh, how I played that day. There were six games in addition to the console, but for me the most important was the Holy Grail of games. I played for several hours that day, getting used to the control and the getting familiar with the Hyrule terrain and castle. I'm not sure if I rescued Princess Zelda that day or not. It doesn't matter, as I eventually conquered the game after a series of carefully calculated deaths numbering 354.
Hey, I never said I was any good, at least not then.
Fast-forward ahead several months and we find ourselves back in the summer of '92. I had thoroughly beaten the game by this point, rescuing the Princess only to have her torn from my grasp, retrieving the Master Sword only to be sucked into the Dark World, defeating the wizard for the second time only to face Ganon, and finally, retrieving the Tri-Force and restoring peace and tranquility to all of Hyrule. I could find all four bottles, beat the game without retrieving extra heart containers, win without dying once, whether using the "Do Not Save and Continue" trick or not, hell, you name it and I could do it.
That is, until I met Chris Houlihan.
Whilst dashing about to accrue Rupees and annoy Light World Hyrule Castle guards with shredded bushes, I suddenly found myself falling down a hole into a room whose floor was covered in blue 5 Rupee gems!
"Whence came this mysterious place?" I thought to myself, opting instead to say "What the fuck?"
No sooner than the magical expletive had crossed my lips was my question answered. A text scrolled across the bottom of the screen informing me that I had located the secret chamber of Chris Houlihan, and that I had found a secret part of the game. The text scrolled by all too quickly, and after I collected the Rupees and had left the room, I rapidly re-entered.
I appeared in Link's home. The secret room had vanished.
Had I imagined it? Of course not. What could this mysterious room have been, and how had I caused it to exist? I tried to remember what I had done to bring it about, but I had been dashing about like such a mad fool, not fearing injury or death with my red mail and Golden Sword, that I had completely lost track of what had transpired. It was typical to find me annoying guards and dashing about, looking for new places (knowing I wouldn't find them). Now that I finally had, what good had my search done me? So rapidly did I find it and how much more rapidly had I lost it!
I wracked my brain the rest of that day, dashing about now out of frustration and curiosity rather than out of the boredom a Shah must feel at home all day. That day turned into days, the days into weeks, and the weeks into months. Attempts to reconstruct what had happened for the pleasure of others were met with disbelief and disdainful glares directed at my poor retelling of events. Eventually, I chose to let the story slip into the sands of time, knowing that I would likely never find the truth behind the matter. The secret chamber had quietly slipped away, carrying with it its mystery and intrigue, in a game whose secrets had long been uncovered and bared nude by countless players.
Fast forward nine years. It's now been approximately six years since I've played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but the memory of that room still glows brightly, like a burning ember in the chamber of my mind, too belligerent to die out, too weak to rise up in flame. A conversation comes up at work about Zelda, as a friend had just recently purchased a copy of the original (American) Final Fantasy for the Nintendo. I asked if he had the original Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo, as I'd like to give it a crack some time. He unfortunately did not, and regardless, because of the age of his Final Fantasy copy, he was unable to turn off his NES, for the battery had long since died and could not hold a stored game. I thought of A Link to the Past and its secret room, but bit my tongue. I knew the disbelief to come more surely than I knew my way through the swamps of the Dark World, or through the forest of the Master Sword. Instead, I turned now with sound footing to one of the most important things the world has ever known: Google.
Ah, surely Google will be able to help me! If there is anything on the planet that can provide information, it is Google. As I prepared to finally live comfortably with the knowledge that I was indeed not the only person who had located the secret room, I drew a blank. What was the name of the room, again?
Google and its text box with blinking cursor mocked me silently.
Was it Chris something...blink...no, maybe Chad?...blink...No, I think it was...blink...No, that wasn't it...blinkblinkBLINKBLINKBLINKBLINK
Have you ever searched Google for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past? Don't. There are 21,100 results. In 0.14 seconds. I like that second part. The smarmy little bastard just has to tell you how quickly he can tell you 21,100 things you already know or don't need to know. "Dinna break a sweat, suh!"
I gave up. What else was I to do? The memories were nine years old, and years of playing had unearthed that elusive abode but once. I was thoroughly defeated, for the second time, by the same simple game of pursuit I had no difficulty winning the first time without even trying.
Fast forward to November 2001. The releases of the Xbox and Gamecube are imminent. Spinsters are calling it the biggest week ever for gaming. That's a pretty big week, I must say. I hadn't played a console in quite a long time, but if I were going to go for either it would likely be the Gamecube because of its lower price and long familiar titles, such as Luigi's Mansion. I made the decision: I would buy a Gamecube if there were going to be a new Legend of Zelda.
Pop over to Nintendo.com, I tell myself. See what's coming up.
I was dismayed, to say the least. I read of two new Zelda games to be released soon, though unfortunately they were to be released on the unappealing GameBoy Advance. I also was witness to the sad saga of Zelda games that had somehow slipped through the cracks of demanding game fans, with cheap storylines and corruption of the true Hylian tale. Disgusted by what was being presented, I instead opted for a trip down memory lane.
Clicking through the strangely modeled Nintendo website, I found The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, sitting alone and forgotten in a dusty corner of the SNES RPG area. Gently, I clicked through its pages, treating the very words that spoke of it as I would the game itself, imagining myself in a different time in a different place, shield at ready, preparing to strike a blow to my enemy. Small, simple screenshots of the game brought with themselves waves of emotion, like a warm wind just strong enough to fluff the tufts of my hair. Every detail was right there before me, every dungeon and every castle, every rock and every brush, as vividly as if I were before it, all with the few simple words of an unpaid intern, too eagerly describing the game as if it were still being marketed today.
I felt myself falling, falling into a chamber beneath the castle, landing in a room littered liberally with rupees. I saw the words appear on the screen, Chris Houlihan. I snapped back to reality, and saw the words on the screen.
I gasped, fairly shocked to have been thrown from a time that never was and a place that exists in fancy, and stared at the screen. Slowly, the words around that name, that name which had eluded me and caused nine years of nagging and disquietude, faded into appearance.
I found Chris Houlihan. Who is he?
Chris Houlihan won one of our contests years ago and one of his prizes was getting his name in this game. The area that talks about him is a hidden area that isn't easy to find. In fact, there isn't a way to find Chris 100% of the time.
To find Chris Houlihan...
1. Save your game in the Light World, then press Reset. Start the game from the Sanctuary.
2. Dash all the way to the bush that Link had to Lift at the beginning of the game to enter the Hyrule Palace.
3. When Link reaches the bush, Dash down the hole without Lifting the bush. If Link is fast enough, Link will appear in Chris Houlihan's room.
The riddle had been solved. There it was, in plain English
, in the last place I thought to look, in the first place it had always been. I sometimes wonder if maybe I shouldn't have found it. In that world where everything was real yet never truly existed, where I had unlocked the secrets of deserts and forests and dungeons and castles, I had found something very few other people had. I don't know when Nintendo put that tidbit about the game into their FAQ, though I'm fairly sure it wasn't in 1992. I had been a part of the last secret of the game that so few had ever unlocked on their own, and now there it was, for the whole world to see, and the whole world to uncover.
I think my greatest disappointment in knowing is that now, too, I will merely uncover that secret room, which I had kept secret, which I had fancied my own secret. I will never discover it again.
The devastating proof: http://www.geocities.com/magicfox64/secretroom.gif