Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past #5 - Skull Woods, Gargoyle's Domain

How are you celebrating the end of the world? I'm celebrating with a spirited game of A LINK TO THE PAST. Today I'm taking out two dungeons, collecting more items, and getting the red sword. A LINK TO THE PAST: The latest from SouljaGame Console!

The next Dark World portal to find is this one, located just north of Kakariko and just south of the Lost Woods. That dark stone to the south is one of many that can only be lifted with Titan's Mitt, which I don't have just yet. As a kid I remember wondering what the deal was with those dark stones.

The Dark World version of the Lost Woods is the dismal, murky locale known as Skull Woods. It reminds me of mid-winter doldrums, roaming around in the woods when there are no leaves on the trees.

The third Dark World dungeon is under the ground here, and has several entrances (that are usually skulls). This is hands-down the creepiest part of A Link to the Past.

The actual dungeon is pretty creepy too, with weird twisted vines on the walls. And then there's the gropey grabby-hand that drops from the ceiling to grab Link and warp him back to the entrance. It's almost as abrasive as a random RPG encounter would be in this era. And come to think of it, the hand is probably the reason this dungeon is so short: The expectation is that players might have to run through it a couple times.

In Link Between Worlds, this groping bastard is the boss of the Skull Woods dungeon, which means he somehow got rid of Mothula. More on that in a moment.

This might actually be the shortest dungeon in the entire game, and can be completed in about five minutes. It has a memorable section where an entire wall moves out of the way so you can get to the chest...

...which you more or less immediately get the Big Key for, because this dungeon is so small. Most of the challenge of it is figuring out what to do, so when you know where to go it flies by.


The Fire Rod, that's what. This is one of the more skippable dungeon relics (meaning you can leave this dungeon for a little later). The Fire Rod is only really needed for the 5th DW dungeon, the Ice Palace, where you have a boss and several enemies that can only be damaged by it. It shoots fireballs that do a lot of damage to most enemies (some more than others, like mummies). As far as dungeon relics go, this is a badass one, just not -required- to progress for a bit. It also appears in Link's Awakening and it's even better there since it has infinite ammo.

It's also necessary to get into the second half of this dungeon, which is inside of a flammable statue. What the hell IS this thing and why isn't it a boss?

Hitting the statue with the Fire Rod results in one of the more memorable little sequences in the game, as most of the statue disappears...while the 3 eyes on the body suddenly open. Is this a statue or a Dr. Who monster?

These star tiles become a real nuisance here, but they're about as difficult as the puzzles get. Stepping on one moves all of the pits in the room around, so one thing you don't want to do is hookshot right into one of them.

The boss here is Mothula, one of the less memorable foes in this game. Sorta looks like Morph Moth from Mega Man X2. First it just lurks there.


The good news is, the Fire Rod works wonders on this fight.

As the fight goes on, the spike traps on the sides of the room start flying in. This fight can go south fast, and is generally over quickly one way or another.

Question is...how did Grabbyhand McGee take over as the master of this dungeon? There's some fanfiction to be written about this story, and all of it is gross.

Our next stop is the Village of Outcasts, the Dark World version of Kakariko. This place also gave me chills as a kid. It looks post-apocalyptic and everyone here is ready to attack you just for passing through. The name is an interesting one, and begs the question of why outcasts congregate here. What have they been cast out of?

The fourth Dark World dungeon follows quickly after the third. This is the Gargoyle's Domain, and while it isn't as quick as the Skull Woods dungeon it's even easier.

The Big Key can be obtained within a minute or so of zoning in if you know which fake walls to run through.

I like the way this game gives you hints as to what to do without being overt about it. Later games would have Navi pop up all "HEY! LISTEN!" while this game knows how to be subtle. You probably already figured out that you have to bomb the cracked floor, and these bombs in the room make it especially clear.

The memorable thing about this dungeon is that the maiden is jailed instead of crystalized. Of course, it isn't really the maiden at all, it's the nefarious Blind the Thief in disguise. Which means...he dressed up like a little girl and put himself in prison just to surprise Link later on. The villains are getting increasingly desperate!

Here's a big one. Now I can lift everything on the overworld...except for the couple of really really big blocks. There should be a third glove for those. And a fourth glove that lets you lift Death Mountain and throw it, thereby skipping the last two dungeons of the game.

Bring the Faux Maiden into the sunlight and she starts freaking out, like The Thing during the blood test scene.

Turns out that's NO MAIDEN. Blind the Thief is one of the more compelling bosses in this game. Since he's a thief and Ganondorf is the "King of Thieves", was he a member of Ganondorf's gang before they got transformed by the Dark World?

Hit him enough times and his head falls off, becomes disembodied while continuing to attack, then he grows a new head. All things considered, this is one of the tougher fights. You can get the jump on him by using the Magic Cape to turn invis and wail on him, a strategy that also works well on the final boss (which has quite a bit in common with this fight).

Behold! I can lift the heaviest stones. We've come full circle since the beginning of this post.

Next stop: There's a cave where you can use the Magic Cape to invis past one of these blue bumper things. That brings you to...

...another Piece of Heart. My journey to getting every heart in the game for the first time ever is nearing its end, as I only have six or so pieces left to find.

Been waiting to encounter this little bastard. He thinks he's cursing you by halving your magic power, when in actuality he's making all of your spells cost half as much MP. When I was a kid I thought this really was some kind of curse and spent a little while trying to find out how to reverse it.

Here's the blacksmith, a hardy gnome found outside Kakariko. He'll turn my sword into a more powerful weapon...once I find out where his partner is.

What's the story with all of the hammer-able stakes in this yard outside the Dark World version of the smithy house? It seems like this is a hint that you should use the hammer as a weapon until you get the sword back, and it isn't a bad idea. For now, I get to keep the sword until I find the other blacksmith.

But first! Another heart piece! Five remain until I reach my goal.

The other blacksmith is in the Dark World, where he's stuck in the form of a frog. The only requirement to reach this guy is that you have the Titan's Mitt, so you can save him fairly early in the Dark World if you know what you're doing.

Return him to the Light World (where he re-becomes a gnome) and it's time to...

...forge the Master Sword into the Red Sword (or as some call it, the Tempered Sword). This thing looks awesome.

I could just leave them to their work, but instead I help out.

There have been times in the past when I didn't get the Red Sword for a while and played sword-less for a bit, but on this playthrough I pretty much got it back right away. That'll do it for the Thor cosplaying with the hammer.

I love the way this sword looks, and it's roughly twice as powerful as the blue Master Sword. There's ANOTHER, more-powerful Gold Sword beyond this one that is 4x the strength of the Master Sword. The first time I beat this game, I didn't know about that, and finished the game with the Red Sword. It's enough to beat the game, and makes short work of mid-tier Dark World bosses. If I'd gone and gotten it before the fight with Blind, he would have been a pushover.

I've always found Death Mountain to be a really mystical locale, and a lot of that has to do with these bridges. You can see the Lost Woods from up here. Imagine if this bridge broke while you were crossing it? Seems a little precarious. And therein lies some of the magic of these early Zelda games: It's easy to let the imagination kick in.

The first of three spell-medallions that do huge AOE attacks. This one freezes every enemy onscreen, like an AOE Ice Rod.

Ether also looks SUPER badass, with Link being struck by lightning that then splits into a bunch of energy spheres that spin outwards.

In this cave, we find...what the hell? Is that a hand?

It turns out that this is the Hand of the Free Market, and also a U.S. senator.

The next of the magic medallions is found in the depths of the swamp. Toss something into the circle of stones and a fish will give you Quake so that you'll stop bothering him.

 Quake sends a bunch of purple electricity zipping outward after Link does a very cool Zelda II style downward-stab. While Ether freezes enemies and the upcoming Bombos straight-up destroys enemies, Quake does something a little weirder...

...it turns every enemy onscreen into weird, harmless jelly-creatures. What?

This very conspicuous part of the southwestern Dark World is a good place to use the Magic Mirror, which ports you to...

...this Light World cliff, one screen off of the Desert. With this, I can reach that monument I could only look at before...

...Which gets me this. The third and final AOE spell is my favorite, because it's just sheer power.

Bombos is a two-stage attack with a ring of fire followed by a bunch of explosions that make satisfying popping sounds. This immolates any nearby foes, the equivalent of hitting everything onscreen with the Fire Rod.

Huh...so we know Ether is an AOE Ice Rod, Bombos is an AOE Fire Rod...does this mean Quake is an AOE Magic Powder? It's worth further testing.

As I buy up on Blue Potions for the last leg of the game, it's time to address the elephant in the room: Link's shield. Where was it for this post? I don't know, but more importantly, he'll be getting a much better one soon. That's the thing about shields in this game...One minute you just realize you don't have your shield anymore because a Like-Like gobbled it up somewhere.


  1. MOTHULA is even an unmemorable name. The SNES was all about those fire rings though.

    That's an interesting theory about the stakes near the blacksmith.

    If this was Breath of the Wild you could leap off of the bridge and sail down into the Lost Woods.

    In my case I'm so hyper-aware of Like-Likes that I never let them get my shield. If they do I know it happened immediately because it's what I was so worried about.

    1. Ask anyone to rattle off LTTP bosses and I'll bet Mothula is the one most likely to be left out.

      The weird thing is...I'm hyper-aware of Like-Likes too, and it's surprising that I let one get me somewhere.

      Looking at the previous post, I had a shield right up until nearly the end of the post. Chances are, the shield got ganked when I was bringing that play session to a close and that's why I missed it.