Twin Peaks’ direct influence on Zelda

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has been a Nintendo classic for so long that it’s easy to forget how weird it felt when it released for the Game Boy in 1993. Originally intended as a simple port of the Super Nintendo’s A link to the past – which in itself would have been a return to the mean after the divisive sidescroller of 1987 Zelda II: Link’s AdventureLink’s awakening could have been a safe, solid extension of a proven Nintendo brand, like its Game Boy versions Mega man, Metroidor Castlevania that preceded it.

While the gameplay is very similar A link to the past, Link’s awakening is a little stranger. The journey is not set in the kingdom of Hyrule like the rest of the games, but on a mysterious island whose most striking landmark is a mountain with a giant spotted egg on top. Apart from Link, no major characters appear in this film, including the villain Ganon and the eponymous Princess Zelda. Zelda game.

They’ve been replaced by, well, a bunch of weirdos: there’s an old man who’s too socially awkward for a face-to-face conversation but endlessly chatty when you call him, a friendly shopkeeper who turns murderous if you steal anything, and an entire family of fourth-wall breakers – including a father who warns you that he’ll get lost in the mountains later in the game (he does) and a bunch of identical kids who give obvious gameplay tips and then admit they have no idea what they just said. There’s also a guy who calls himself Tarin, but is clearly just a thinly veiled riff on Mario; at the end of the game you helped him track down a mushroom and watched it turn into a raccoon.

In a 2010 interview said Link’s awakening director Takashi Tezuka revealed the inspiration for this memorably bizarre cast of characters. “At the time, Twin Peaks was quite popular. The drama was all about a small number of characters in a small town,” said Tezuka. “So I wanted to create something like that, although it would be small enough to be easily understood, but it would have deep and distinctive features.”

Developed at a time when Twin Peaks was so popular in Japan that The New York Times has written a long story about it, it’s easy to imagine how that legendary TV drama, co-created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, starts as a mystery about the murder of a high school student before spiraling into a surreal drama full of eccentric characters and detours into the supernatural – would be in the Zelda franchise too.

And that was the end of the story until a few months ago, when Mark Frost logged into X and casually dropped a bombshell that lit up two completely different, but equally passionate fandoms. “Has anyone ever played this?” he tweeted in response to a story about Nintendo’s Game Boy classic The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was inspired by Twin Peaks. “I talked to them about it and gave them some ideas, but I never tried it myself.”

Until that tweet, the Link’s awakening / Twin Peaks connection is conceived as one of indirect influence. Now Frost reveals in an interview with The edgehe actually spoke to Nintendo about the Zelda franchise. “I don’t want to overdo it. It was a single conversation. But it was fun,” he says.

That conversation took place between Twin Peaks‘ first and second seasons, when Twin Peaks fever was perhaps at its hottest. “I remember meeting someone who was kind of an engineering genius,” says Frost. “He had hyperhidrosis, so his hands were very sweaty, and he was constantly wiping his palms throughout the meeting.”

The Nintendo team was clearly big fans.

“They talked to me about one Twin Peaks game, and they called it Zelda at the time,” says Frost. “They said, ‘One of the things we like about your show is that there are all kinds of side associations that can move the story forward.’ They asked me about it when they were thinking about getting the Zelda universe.”

Although he has never had one Zelda game, Frost had enough experience telling fantasy stories that he had some suggestions. “I had played there a lot Dungeons and Dragons So when I was young, I knew the kind of story they were thinking of,” he says. “I think I said, ‘Don’t be afraid to use dreamy, Jungian symbolism. Things can be connected thematically, without having to be connected in concrete terms.’ It was things like that that I pushed for [to consider].”

Nintendo veteran Yoshiaki Koizumi has previously done the honors Link’s awakening‘s story, including the climactic reveal – 30-year-old spoiler alert – that the entire game was a dream. But it’s not hard to make connections between the murder mystery and the strangest at the time Zelda game, with its bizarre characters, dreams full of hidden messages, and an owl that is not what it seems.

Concerning the Twin Peaks game that Frost mentioned – despite articles in various video game magazines at the time, it never came to fruition, although what little information did come out sounded terribly ambitious for an NES game. A flap in it Nintendo Power said it would be “role-playing style” with a plot based on the show’s second season, complete with multiple playable characters and endings. Last year, Time extension‘s Jack Yarwood tracked down a former producer at licensee Hi Tech Expressions, who confirmed that an ambitious-sounding Twin Peaks game inspired by Maniac mansion was discussed, but never went into production.

But even as a Twin Peaks The game never happened, its influence spread far beyond Zelda to games like Alan Wake And Life is strange. The most infamous Deadly premonitionoriginally announced as Rainy forest with a trailer so clearly inspired by Frost and Lynch’s show that it feels more like a remake than a tribute.

When I ask Frost if he has the Rainy forest trailer, he pulled it up on the spot. “With gruesome murders, skull-shaped gas masks and strange men sitting in shaking chairs,” he reads, clearly bewildered. But the trailer itself didn’t bother him. “I’ve never complained about that kind of tribute. After all, you cannot copyright a vote,” says Frost.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Twin Peaks mood” since that conversation. Much has been made of it, rightly so Twin Peaks‘excessive impact on television. You can see echoes of it in everything from Tony Soprano’s cryptic, revealing dreams to blatant knock-offs like AMC’s The killing, with its ubiquitous “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” campaign.

But if Deadly premonition is basically the video game equivalent of a Twin Peaks cover band, Zeldahas grown over the years into a video game franchise that channels an essential quality Twin Peaks has at its core. Best Zelda games, including Link’s awakening, Majora’s maskAnd Breath of the wildbalance their offbeat humor and characters with something darker. There’s an undercurrent of menace beneath these colorful fantasy trappings, and a sense that even the most courageous and determined hero, at their best, can only hope to hold back the darkness for a while.

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