There are a number of games that remind me of nostalgic summer vacations, but the biggest one for me will always and forever be The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. During my summer vacation in 1993, I couldn’t wait for Link’s tropical island themed adventure. I dreamed about it, and then played it in the car during my own summer beach trip. Link’s Awakening will be forever engraved in my head as the quintessential summer game. To that end, I play it almost every summer like clockwork. I try to mix it up with the different versions. Sometimes I’ll play the original with it’s game breaking screen warp glitch. Maybe I’ll play the colorized DX version. If I’m feeling less like staring at a 2.5 inch screen, I’ll play the fantastic remake on the Nintendo Switch. Whichever way you want to play Link’s Awakening, it’s a great experience and will always be a game I think of fondly. Now, even more so.
I’m an electronics hobbyist. I always have a project going on, whether it’s restoring a GameBoy Pocket, or cleaning up some old games I picked up from the thrift store. As a lot of people put it, I adopt electronics. Abandoned electronics just jump out at me when I see them, especially video games. One day I saw a random GameBoy game laying in the street in 2008. I picked it up, expecting to see Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s Pocket Planner, or something like that. Much to my surprise, upon turning the game over, it was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX. A “good” game!
I didn’t expect much, given the cartridge had water damage, the sticker was ruined, and I had found it in the street. Still, I opened it up, cleaned up the board and contacts and threw it into my GameCube’s GameBoy Player to see if it worked. It fired right up, and all three save files were taken up. I thought to myself “Cool! Spare copy of Link’s Awakening! This is a good thing to have!” I threw it into a shoebox that I kept little game related odds and ends. And there it sat, for about thirteen years. From 2008 to 2021, it sat in my shoebox with a few random bootleg GameBoy games, a spell checker cartridge that some well meaning relative gave me for my birthday one year, some third party PlayStation 1 memory cards I hope I never need, and all of my loose instruction manuals and maps.
Time passed and a lot of adulting happened. Relationships were made, ended, started, ended, and started. I got engaged, married, had a kid, moved, moved again. All this time, this same shoebox was being moved from house to house, from closet to closet, taped shut with a label on it that read “NES and GameBoy manuals”. I didn’t think about it. Nobody did.
The GameBoy itself brings me a lot of nostalgia, and I had gone and refurbished my childhood GameBoy Pocket with a new IPS screen and a brand new shell. Of course, I had to play the game that brings me the most nostalgia…Link’s Awakening. As I’m playing, my husband remarks:
“I haven’t heard those sounds in ages.”
“Ages, you say? Perhaps it’s been Seasons, even?”
“I had it as a kid, but I never managed to finish it. I was bad at it. I probably restarted it a million times, but I lost it and never finished it.”
“Well, it’s as good a time as any to play. Though, my cart has all the saves full. You could play the Switch version.”
“I feel like I’d rather play the GameBoy Color one. That’s the one I had. Just hearing the sound brings back memories.”
“Conveniently, I have another copy you could play. If the battery doesn’t work yet, I can replace it, but it was good last time I played. You’ll probably have to delete a save off of it. It’s not pretty either, the label got damaged, but it works. I wanted to get a new shell and sticker for it but you’re welcome to it.”
I went to the legendary box of weird game cartridges and manuals and retrieved the water damaged but recovered copy of Link’s Awakening. I pop it into my GameBoy and look at the names of the save files on it. Three of them. One of them I now recognize as my husband’s name, and the name of my sister-in-law. My jaw dropped.
It seems like a weird coincidence, or something that wouldn’t in a sitcom. I had to do a double take and make sure I was looking at the names right. My husband looks at me puzzled and asks:
“Why, what. What’s that face for?”
“Well…apparently this is your copy. Look.”
He looks at it and his jaw drops. Both of us sat there trying to figure out how his game ended up in my shoebox, which had been sitting taped up in my closet since before we had ever met. He hadn’t even seen his copy of the game in years and assumed it had long since been lost. Not that it mattered much, as his GameBoy Color had been broken for years anyway. Looking at the names, the progress of the games, it was unmistakably his.
My husband wasn’t much of a gamer before we met. When we had, he was behaving all “serious science major” and didn’t have time for “silly video games” until our first Christmas together where I had bought him a Nintendo DS Lite and Pokemon Platinum. Slowly but surely, I rekindled his joy for video games.
I keep going back to the timeframe and where he and I were in 2008 when I had picked up this random GameBoy game from the snow and slush in the street. At that time, we both lived in the same town though we hadn’t quite met yet despite knowing most of the same people. We always joked that we missed each other over and over again, but it was fate or destiny for us to meet sheerly by virtue of being in the same places and knowing most of the same people.
Was it just a coincidence that the random GameBoy game I picked up just happened to belong to him? Or was this just another way of fate saying he and I were meant together? I’ve mulled it over a lot, and there’s not really another good explanation of how his game ended up in my things. Sure, we’d been married for years but he’d never go into my old boxes and surely would never have put games in them. If anything, he’d have just handed it to me or kept it with his own games. Also, given the condition of the game, I would surely have given him a lecture about taking better care of cartridges. But no, the label still has water damage from the snow.
Could the names on the cart be a coincidence, too? This is doubtful. Without going into details of the exact names, the combination of the three names on the cartridge with neither of them being completed is also too improbable. They’re unusual names from different ethnicities.
There’s no other probable explanation. Most likely what happened is it must have been in a box his parents brought to his dorm room that had a bunch of junk in it. He had to move all of his stuff from the dorm room to an apartment in the span of a single day. In the fuss, he must have dropped a box, or even left one behind. Both his dorm room and his apartment were blocks from my apartment at the time. It stands to reason that if something were to have fallen out of a box, it would have been along a street that I walked almost every single day.
Nothing else makes rational sense. I rescued a game he had lost a long while before he had met me. Now, thirteen years after finding it, I returned it to him having never known it was his in the first place. Maybe it’s not real at all. Maybe it’s just a dream.
At any rate, I’m going to make sure he finishes it. You could say, it’s his destiny to now beat the game on his own childhood cartridge. Moral of the story? I guess you never know who is going to end up with your old games. Who knows, you could end up married to the person who started the save files on your classic RPGs!