by Celeste Roberts
“Ghosts are all around us. Look for them, and you will find them.” - Ruskin Bond
*Please note this article will contain spoilers for players who have not played or read about Link’s Awakening.*
I did not own a GameBoy or GameBoy Color; in fact, my first portable video game system was a translucent pink GameBoy Advance. The remake of Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch was my first time exploring Koholint Island and meeting its charming residents and, dare I say, pretty adorable enemies.
After I completed the Angler’s Tunnel dungeon, I swam out to the right side of the fortress, happily wading in the clear blue water, when a pink figure with a morose visage floated from off-screen and began following me.
I haven’t button mashed so much since I played as Chun Li in Street Fighter. I thought this phantom was an enemy, but when it wasn’t taking away hearts when it enclosed on Link, I calmed down. I continued on my way, consulting Ulrira for some hints as to what to do. The instructions were to “take him where he wants to go,” so, of course, I assumed the little fellow wanted to go to the cemetery and hang out with the other ghosts. However, my new companion began murmuring, “... the house… take me… the house… at the bay…”
I recalled seeing a derelict purple home in my adventure, so I began leading the little fellow to the home. I hadn’t seen anything of value in the abandoned home when I first entered it, but I now had the owner in my company. Maybe he forgot to pack for his vacation?
Upon entering his humble home, a sweet music box-esque theme of Mabe Village began to play as the ghost floated around his home, taking everything in and reminiscing.
Looking at an armoire, the ghost said, “Nostalgia… unchanged…” He then moved to a corner near some pots, covered his eyes, and began to cry. “Boo hoo.” I could have crumbled.
I noticed a beautiful yellow flower blossoming beside the surprisingly pristine bed. Amidst the decay and dust, life flourished. I also noticed what appeared to be a compass and a map on a table. Was the ghost an adventurer like Link? What wonders did he witness in his corporeal lifetime?
The memories may have been too powerful for my new friend; he faced Link and said, “Enough… cemetery… take me… my grave…”
I remembered seeing a lone grave not far from the cemetery and figured it was the correct one. As we approached it, the ghost’s somber expression transformed into a charming smile, and he thanked me with an empty bottle to hold fairies and potions.
Paranoia’s Dungeon YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmIEo0jN-0A
I’m a sentimental person and overthink random aspects of stories. My grandfather passed away in August, and I started this game a month after losing one of the most important people in my life. I instantly thought of my Paw Paw and the countless memories we shared; I grew up next door to my grandparents and was at their home often.
I wonder whether those who have gone before us can revisit places special to them. Would they mourn? Would they feel a sense of peace? Would they be satisfied with the legacy they have left behind?
Link’s Awakening isn’t going to answer these questions for me, but it does remind me that video games are a medium that can do far more than provide an outlet for killing time: they can echo sentiments from our world and grasp our hearts, teaching us empathy and ensuring us we are not alone in this often cruel world.
I began to consider my own mortality. What will happen to my home after I am no longer able to care for it? What about places from my childhood, like stores that have closed and parks that are enjoyed by nothing but rampant vegetation and fallen trees? I see these figurative cemeteries all around me now, so I can only imagine the emptiness after I am gone.
We are ephemeral visitors on Earth, much like Link is a temporary visitor of Koholint Island. What can we do with the time given to us? Link embarks on a quest to smite enemies and restore peace, only to discover his entire experience was a dream. Perhaps life is similar: we are thrust into a plane of existence until we are no longer a part of it. “A dream within a dream,” as Poe wrote.