the artistry and psychology of gaming


Death Mountain (Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)

Death Mountain (Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)

I’ve already spoken of Hyrule and its Dark World, a place of twisted intrigue.  Though it no longer exists in that form, my memories of it are quite vivid.  When you first lift a rock to find that shifting, blue warp tile underneath it, you become mesmerized by its beauty and mystery, compelling you to touch it.  Upon doing so, you are transported to a ruined landscape as far as the eye can see and transformed into a twisted form of yourself that reflects your flaws; that sort of thing leaves a lasting impression upon you.  The place I first found a warp tile is equally memorable: Death Mountain.

Death Mountain is enormous, as are all mountains, and separates some major areas of Hyrule.  It has an absolutely labyrinthine network of caverns running through it, so it is possible to cross to the other side, but it is not only extremely difficult to navigate, the caverns are also crawling with very dangerous creatures, so only the very skilled make it out alive.  Standing atop that mountain, though, is quite an experience, which is only augmented when you are in the Dark World; it is the only place in Hyrule that maintains its name in both worlds.

When you come through the warp tile on the western side of the mountain, you are standing in a circle of large, pale purple flowers that are the size of shrubs.  The grass is brown, and even though you’re so high that you’re above the clouds, it still seems overcast.  Large rock formations erupt from the ground, trickling lava down their sides.  Heading west, you notice that Spectacle Rock is just a flat patch of dirt, and further on, you reach a rock wall with a ramp to the south and a cliff to the north.  Looking over the cliff, you see the dark landscape below, covered in trees of almost black with some unidentifiable red spots covering them.  As the lightning cracks below you, it becomes clear that you have stepped into a living nightmare.

Descending and heading to the eastern side of the mountain, you’ll see that not only is the broken bridge of the Light World not present, it is as if it never even existed; only two strange statues stand where the bridge’s posts would have been.  All you can do is gaze into the burning horrors of the dark chasm below, where rivers of lava serve as the only light in absolute blackness.  I remember wishing to descend into that area and explore, but my self-preservation instincts prevented me from doing so; after all, even were I not to fall into flowing magma and become molten flesh and bone, there was no guarantee that I’d have been able to climb back out, so, as in many situations, I could only stare down in wonder.

If you cross the aforementioned bridge in the Light World, you’ll find another warp tile on the other side.  After locating it, I returned to stare back at the western side where I had stood before; two statues stood where the bridge’s posts would have been on this side, as well.  On the east side, there is a cavern that takes you up to the top.  Once there, you can head east to Turtle Rock, which is a deep cavern, or head back west again.  Heading west, you pass by some strange statues, much like the ones on either side of the aforementioned chasm, but these are on either side of a natural bridge, causing me to wonder if there was originally a bridge across the larger chasm below.

On the other side of this thin bridge is the area right above the other entry point.  Up here, there is a large tower with many columns and some statue heads of some sort of three-eyed pig demon.  I have seen the tower pulsating many colors, but I have also seen it stop doing so, during which time there was a staircase leading inside.  The staircase enters the tower on its second floor, which seems a bit unusual.  Just west of the tower, there is another thin bridge that leads to an island floating upon the clouds.  If that were not strange enough, there are two sets of the statues that appear near the natural bridges on the floating island side.  Perhaps they are part of its gravity-defying secret.

Though I have never had the pleasure of exploring the Golden Land after the Dark World had been vanquished, I know that I have found many memorable treasures in the Dark World.  Though its landscape is unquestionably horrifying to experience in person, there was something special about it that has stayed with me my whole life thus far.  Perhaps it was the feeling of being lost, not only in the navigational sense, but also knowing that I was in a world that was a perversion of the one I had known, with seemingly no way out, and a new, foreign body replacing my own.  Once you’re a seasoned adventurer, the initial horror of “What is this place?” fades, and your resolve becomes recalcitrant in finding the answer to the question; you want to know every single facet of the frightening wasteland before you, and it is then that you have truly embraced the nightmare.

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