Saturday, December 22, 2018

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past #4 - Dark Palace, Swamp Palace

While Mordor in Lord of the Rings prominently features both an evil mountain and an evil tower, Zelda combines the two. And somewhere, a lawyer for the Tolkien Estate just popped a chub.

We last left off on this a while ago. Agahnim is defeated, and it's time for the super-atmospheric and eerie Dark World. I always liked these bomb-throwing cyclops guys, especially because they appeared in the Nintendo Power comic.

My quest to get all of the heart pieces continues with one of the easiest-to-obtain in the entire game. This one is just lurking.

I beeline for the Dark Palace, because we're not playing by the hour here. The way is lined with goblin head statues. The Tolkien Estate are licking their CHOPS!

Sahasrahla's Light World abode is similar here, only the resident is this...tree? He explains that the wielder of the Triforce can dictate the shape of the Dark World, and Ganon's evil distorted everything.

Strange things happen outside the Dark Palace, as a blue monkey follows our hero around and opens the door for him...while Donkey Kong statues look on creepily. Seriously, that's gotta be Donkey Kong!

The main thing the Dark Palace is noteworthy for: Helmasaurs. These little goons are impervious to sword attacks from the front.

Also noteworthy: This central room with a bounce-pad and a bunch of hard-shelled beetles.

There are a couple of tricks that simplify this room. One, the Boomerang can be fired diagonally to hit the switch from beyond the barrier. Two, dashing against the side of the upper stairway actually knocks you back far enough to land on the south platform...barely...if you immediately start moving down.

Multiple levels come into play in this dungeon, as you need to be mindful of what's going on on other floors more than earlier dungeons. The dungeon difficulty spikes in general at this point.

Here's the treasure of the dungeon: The bane of the Helmasaur, and the coolest hammer in media since Thor's. This thing can break through shields and other enemy blocks, at the cost of being a little slow to strike and having a short range.

The bosses get a SIGNIFICANT upgrade right away in the Dark World. The Helmasaur King is one of the more memorable foes from A Link to the Past. There are two ways to break his head-shield: Hammer strikes, if you can get close enough, or laying bombs around him.

Once the helmet is destroyed, sword strikes or arrows to the green eye end the fight...eventually. Nintendo Power says to fire arrows, while I found the sword to be an easier method since he moves from side to side a lot.

Victory gets you the first of seven crystals you have to find in the Dark World. That's right, the 3 pendants were just the beginning. I'd say at this point we're close to halfway done with the game. After the Swamp Palace we'll definitely be past the halfway mark.

The imprisoned crystal-maidens all say this after you rescue them, and it's a line that stuck with me over the years. Nostalgia overload!

Here's the Mirror Universe version of Link's House. In this world... it's a crack den.

Actually, it's the home of the bomb-smith. Right now he only sells bombs. Later on, he'll sell much bigger bombs. And someday, he'll develop the weapon that will end all life in Hyrule. Luckily this game ends before that happens, so it's nothing we have to think about. Manbearpig.

Haw! You can't get me!

Heart Piece Crusade continues, as our hero warps between the worlds to get to previously-unreachable cliffs and caves.

Unfortunately, this heart piece heralds in a dark time...

...the time of having one heart by itself on the second line. My OCD HATES this. Time to get four more heart pieces ASAP.

Looks like I missed a shot of one of the pieces I got. Regardless, here's another that's attainable from world-warping. Finding all of these hearts is a lot of fun, and something I never really focused on in the past.

Our hero finds a pond that makes you happier if you throw rupees in, which helps to stave off his crippling depression. Ask YOUR doctor about Rupee Pond!

Well, all the pond really does is increase your bomb and arrow carrying capacity. It takes a loooooot of rupees thrown in to max both of them out.

Instead of looking for pieces, I could just get a full heart from the next dungeon, seen here. The Swamp Palace isn't much to look at, and requires Draining the Swamp (tm) in the Light World.

That's right, kids. Before there was the Water Temple of Ocarina of Time, there was the Swamp Palace in this game. It's muuuuch simpler than the Water Temple, and has a really nice atmosphere to it.

I'd go so far as to say this might be my favorite dungeon in A Link to the Past, and a lot of that is the splish-splash sounds that occur as you patter around. Like the Eastern Palace, you see the big chest here way before you can unlock it.

There are a few puzzles here where you need to raise or lower water levels to access doors and chests. Since it's a 2D game with no Z-axis swimming, they couldn't make it too complicated.

The loot here is the (BOING!) Hookshot. Or as it is called here, Hook Shot. No relation to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Sky Hook, but I'm willing to bet that Lord Jabu-Jabu's name WAS related to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Lord Jabu-Jabu is, of course, the giant fish from later Zelda games. My God... maybe the Hook Shot isn't a coincidence? The conspiracy is coming together!

I'm onto you, Shigeru Miyamoto! How many basketball references have you been hiding in Zelda, RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSES?

I can't help running up against all of these waterfalls to see if any of them hides a hidden door. Man, this game is great.

This one particular room isn't so great, because these super-weak enemies block your jumps into the water and trap you on the upper platforms.

The boss here is Arrghus, or as the Nintendo Power Game Counselor Line pronounced it, "Oraygus". I had to call that line quite a few times to get through this and Chrono Trigger. The cool thing is, they'd play music from said games in the background for the automated parts of the line. You could press a button and have a recording explain to you where an item was or where to go in a particular area.

In any case, Arrghus is a fun battle because you grab those yellow things off of him with the Hookshot Hook Shot and strike with your sword.

I've mentioned before how much I associate A Link to the Past with the War of the Worlds TV show. This guy is another reason why, as he bears a strong resemblance to the deity of the aliens:

I need to watch this again

Defeat all of his Tribbles and he goes full-on aggro mode by chasing you around, much like the last Armos Knight. From here it's just a matter of sidestepping and slashing.

The orc-beast we know as Ganon was once Ganondorf, a human (well, Gerudo). Ocarina of Time goes a lot more in-depth with this and is, to my knowledge, the first Zelda to show him as a human.

Dark World Graveyard. The important thing to find here right now is a place where you can warp over to the Light World to...

...go into this previously-unreachable cave and get...

...Another of these. I'm closing in on the third heart piece in the second row, which will get me out of OCD range.

You can also warp from the Dark World to access the northeast gravestone without the Titan's Mitt, the heavy block lifting item I haven't gotten yet. I love how some of these gravestones have passages hidden under them. When I played Link's Awakening as a kid I was pushing on every gravestone in sight trying to find hidden things.

The loot in question here? The Magic Cape, which makes you invisible and invincible until your magic meter runs out. It's one of the most OP items in A Link to the Past, especially once I find the guy who "curses" Link by doubling his magic meter.

Next stop is the Village of Outcasts, the mirror version of Kakariko. It's in ruins and patrolled by Moblins, or whatever those orc-looking things are. At this point the game opens up quite a bit, and you can do the remaining dungeons somewhat out of order. The item from Dungeon 4 is needed to get to Dungeon 6, and there are a few other similar issues, but aside from that you can go where you want now. I might skip over the Skull Woods dungeon for now since I've always found it to be one of the tougher ones (even though it's like five minutes long).

Here's one of the trickier heart pieces to get, because it can take many goes at this minigame before you luck out and find it.

Here's another painful-to-acquire heart piece from a minigame.

After about ten runs at the minigame, I get it with two seconds left. Fun Fact: The only heart piece I didn't acquire in remake/sequel/whatev Link Between Worlds was the one from the weird baseball minigame, because My God.

Here's the most poignant tale of A Link to the Past, at least until the end credits render it meaningless. It's the Flute Boy, played by Alyson Hannigan.

In the Dark World he's been turned into a beast and can no longer play the flute, which is still in the Light World. Get the Shovel from him and go there, and...

...there's his ghost, or some other time-delayed apparition, still playing for the forest critters.

The flute can be dug up nearby, and replaces the Shovel in the inventory. As a kid I remember wishing you got to keep the Shovel and dig more. I believe Link's Awakening lets you keep it permanently. If I could change anything about this game, I'd have it follow that mold and stay in the inventory. To make room, get rid of the Cane of Byrna since it does the same thing as the Magic Cape.

The flute can be played in front of the Kakariko weathercock to...


This is the game's fast travel feature, and lets you warp around the Light World. Keep in mind that at this point in time few games had any kind of fast travel outside of the Dragon Quest series. Now it's pretty much a prerequisite for all open-world large-scale games.

Not only is fast travel useful, the game also makes it fun by having the bird swoop down over the ground to drop you off.

Meanwhile: FINALLY the Magic Powder is ready for pickup. They had to test it for purity and get it through customs.

The flute boy turns into a tree, and thus concludes one of the sadder mini-fables of A Link to the Past. Don't worry, the Disney's Doug end credits magically bring him back to life, along with everybody else.

"oh hai"


  1. Back in the day I would sometimes get the item from dungeons like this without actually reaching the boss. The hammer unlocks a lot of the Dark World.

    I recommend the sword for the Helmasaur boss too. Much faster.

    Swamp palace is definitely my favorite dungeon in the game.

    Oh hey, it's yours too!

    I don't think I knew that you could get the Magic Cape before the Titan's Mitt, whoa.

    I never had any problem with using the Triforce at the end to undo Ganon's works. It's the Triforce!

  2. I like what you're thinking with Lord Jabu-Jabu. As the top scorer in NBA history, but overshadowed by Magic and Larry from the next generation of players, Kareem needs to be remembered in more things!

    I had to dig a LOT to find the Magic Flute my last playthrough. Well, I was very silly and dug all through the Dark World glen first before remembering what game this is.

    I'm with you on the maxing out of bombs and arrows taking a long time. It was a multi-dungeon project for me, but also a good way to have uses of money still, since in some games the GP piles up in the endgame.

    Looking back, it's cool how mature the Village of Outcasts and the Dark World in general are without becoming so dark as to be inappropriate for kids. It's a delicate balance that is not reached by many games; the World of Ruin from FF6 is another example from this console generation.

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