A Link to the Somewhere

This year’s apparently now obligatory nod to Awesome Games Done Quick — yada yada, video game speedruns, yada yada Prevent Cancer Foundation, yada yada raised $2.26 million — is upon us, but rather than do a rundown of some key spedruns as in times past, I’m going to focus on just one.

Welcome to A Link to the Past Randomizer. Which is perfect for doing speedrun races.

What the Randomizer does is take a ROM of the first version of the Japanese release of Zelda 3, and painstakingly resorts ALL of the following items:

  • Items from treasure chests
  • The Heart Containers dropped by bosses
  • Items gained by talking to NPCs (this included the sword and shield normally delivered by Link’s Uncle, and some items exchanged for money like Zora’s Flippers or the Bottle Merchant)
  • The medallions granted by the stone tablets
  • Items not otherwise specified that are just sitting around
  • Which pendant or crystal a dungeon awards upon completion

And, just for kicks, it also randomises which medallions are needed to open Misery Mire and Turtle Rock.

Small keys that drop from regular monsters, that drop from the sky or are hidden under moveable or liftable objects stay where they are, but the rest of the dungeon items can come from any of the drop points in the dungeon. It’s not uncommon for the boss to grant you the map or the compass upon death.

(Though if you really want to be a superstar, there’s an option to randomize the small keys too, and still another option to allow the small keys, big keys, maps and compasses to drop in treasure spots outside their respective dungeons. You can also go all-in and randomize all the entrances and exits in the world go, too.)

A lot of intrepid coders have worked over several years to ensure that the randomizer NEVER generates an unbeatable game. Sometimes, though, you have to enter a dungeon you can’t finish to find gear to tackle a completely different dungeon.

That being said, you best be prepared to spend a lot of time with no sword as you open chest after early game chest finding little more than bombs, arrows and hordes of rupees with the occasional heart or actual piece of equipment to keep you going.

There are plenty of newbie traps even the most seasoned Zelda 3 veteran will fall into by virtue of how much the order of exploration and the gear you have to solve puzzles and bypass obstacles changes. You’ll find ways to fight Angham without any of the pendants, let alone the Master Sword (which almost certainly won’t be in its pedestal anyway). You’ll spend long swaths of the Dark World with no Magic Mirror.

But it’s a great way to learn more about a game a lot of people thought had no surprises left. You get a bevy of all-new challenges, strategic decision making if your going for a time or a race

And all it takes is obtaining the Zelda no Densetsu: Kamigami no Triforce v1.0 ROM — which you were as straightedge as Homer in procuring, I have no doubt.

— and going to the randomizer website to get it patched right through your Web browser. Modern day convenience!

Just to demonstrate how off the rails this can get from a traditional playthrough, let me take you on a brief tour of a game.

First thing’s first, let’s check the map to see what’s in the dungeons. Hrm. Looks like the Pendants of Power and Courage have swapped places and one of the Dark World crystals has invaded eastern palace.

Given this, I know that unless the bosses of Desert Palace and the Tower of Hera are holding important items, I don’t need to fight them to complete the game unless the item where the Master Sword should be is needed.

Okay, so now to loot the Sanctuary chest and dig up the zillion chests in Kakariko Village.

In this screenshot, you’ll notice another feature of the randomizer: You can change Link’s sprite to one of dozens of options for the funsizes. You also notice a crucial early pick up of the Power Glove. I’d later find the flippers in the middle chest at the top of the screen.

I didn’t find the boots, so I can’t yet get the item where the Book of Mudora usually is. However, I checked it while I was in town to see what was there. Since it’s just a red rupee, I won’t need to come back. If you’re playing for time, checking on a lot of fresh-air item placements to see if they’re vital or skippable is essential.

So this is what my inventory looks like already, in addition to more hearts than I should have at this point. I didn’t find a bottle, so I’ll have to come back to get the item from the sick boy. I don’t have a sword, but I did get three weapons; a lucky haul.

Having the gloves, hammer, flipper and bombs allows me to go anywhere in the Light World except Death Mountain or anywhere that requires warping back from the Dark World. Having Lift-1, the Hammer and the Moon Pearl also allows me to access several Dark World teleporters and explore for items there.

The game may require me to go to any accessible area to find whatever item I need to beat a level. While it looks like I can clear Eastern Palace and Dark Palace already, I actually can’t; the game considers the lantern a necessary item to travel through any dark room. That being said, the dark rooms in Eastern Palace are easy-peasy to get through blind, so I’ll sequence-break that when I’m in the neighborhood.

First thing will be clearing out the remaining caves in the swamp and by Lake Hylia, go to the Waterfall of Wishes and Zora’s Domain, and snatch the three hidden chests in the sewer escape.

Having done all that, I found the Titan’s Mitt, the Flute and the Magic Mirror, allowing me to explore anywhere in the Light and Dark worlds. I’ll still be stymied by caves that require the hookshot though. With this, I could also clear the Tower of Hera, Skull Woods, Thieves’ Town and the Ice Palace. Still no sword, though…

At long last, a sword! Oddly, I got it where the upgrade to the tempered sword would normally be — after rescuing the blacksmith from the Dark World. In another bit of fun, I would discover what then was the final upgrade to the Golden Sword in the Master Sword pedestal. But that’s pure random for you. I got lucky and didn’t need the boots to clear Desert Palace… which I entered without the book by warping to the back entrance from Misery Mire.

With most of my adventuring over, I finally found the chest with the lamp deep inside Ice Palace. I could have gone here immediately after picking up the Fire Rod, but it’s not a good idea without also having the hookshot and a lot of health. The randomizer does not take survivability into account, but you seem to be likely to find a lot of heart containers and pieces of heart early on.

But even with all this gear, it’s not “go” time yet. I need the Ice Rod to beat the boss in Turtle Rock, and I need the Bombos Medallion to open Misery Mire. The Ice Rod turned out to be in Turtle Rock itself, so the leap of faith going in there was well rewarded. Turtle Rock actually isn’t a bad place to hit when you can; it has a lot of extra treasure chests in it.

Once you open the Tower of Ganon, the game is still a little wild. Out of the 22 possible items you can get in its basement, the only one you need (assuming you have at least the Master Sword, and the Lantern or the Fire Rod) is the Big Key. How you play the dungeon, of course, will vary wildly depending on what items you missed or never needed to begin with. For example, if there wasn’t a crystal in Skull Woods, you wouldn’t have needed the Fire Rod. If the game also never required Ether for progression, you could be stuck walking through the Tower of Gannon’s invisible bridge room with no way to make it visible. It’s also possible the game never needed to force you to get the Pegasus Boots… only for the Big Key to be the one item that spawns atop a pillar. Will the boots be deeper in the dungeon… or do you have to backtrack to somewhere you skipped to find them? The answer could be both: You need an item deeper in the dungeon to unlock a previously inaccessible area to get the boots.

But as you could see in my previous inventory screenshot, I was pretty loaded well in advance. Endgame played out in a pretty standard way.

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