My girlfriend and I shared our first anniversary together standing in line for more than six hours, waiting for a Nintendo Switch. Pangs of anxiety had guided me into making a call to the local GameStop in a last-ditch effort to remedy my lack of a preorder for the latest Nintendo hardware. Normally, I wouldn’t feel anxious about the release of a new console. Early adoption of gaming hardware has proven time and time again to be a trap for consumers; doubly so with Nintendo products. Yet there I was, standing in a small crowd of eccentric, meme-spouting, 20-somethings as my girlfriend dutifully watched Wreck-It Ralph on my tablet.
Truth be told, it wasn’t the Nintendo Switch that I was anxious about, but the latest entry into the Zelda franchise. In an unexpected twist, Nintendo revealed that it would be a day-one release on their latest foray into handheld gaming. Many had assumed it would be an early title to entice users to adopt the Switch—which had an otherwise-unimpressive library at launch—but few expected it to drop on day one; in tandem with the console.
Compounding with Nintendo’s limited product supply, this posed a contemporary problem. In Nintendo’s 30 year-long history of the Zelda franchise, the titles have always been released on their respective console after each piece of hardware had been broken-in. In all the major entries, there was never a threat of having the plot or game mechanics spoiled. When I was too young to buy my own games, the internet was still disorganized and lacked the pervasiveness that it has now. Sixth and seventh generation titles like Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword were easy for me to acquire because I already had the hardware by the time they were released. I was always about to experience a sense of mystery and subsequent discovery within the content of the games. It was something I treasured about the games. Reggie Fils-Aimé would oft whisper breathily about how the new unprecedented departure into an open-world format lends so well to that exploration-style gameplay that I craved.
The call to GameStop ended up being an act of desperation. The patient voice of a GameStop employee kindly informed me of the eight units available without preorder, and went as far to let me know that there were only two people standing in line for the midnight release at the time of my call. In other words, a small miracle. Panic and hope both set in as I hustled over, calling several additional times on my way to make sure that there would still be a place for me. The poor employee warned me that ‘a lot of people have been calling about them’ without realizing that it was the same person every time.
When I got to the store front, there was only a single other person sitting in a fold-up camping chair. He was quick to explain that his friend had to go to class, and that the empty chair next to his own was representative of that. I struck up conversation as I waited for my girlfriend to finish her shift. We talked about our expectations and how lucky we must be. We speculated that the mall’s GameStop location was overlooked because the mall typically closes at 9:00 PM, so it was easy to assume that there wouldn’t be a midnight release. By the time we exhausted our talking points, my girlfriend arrived with the promise of food. There was no obligation for her to be there in the line with me, but she decided to stick it out nonetheless.
It didn’t escape me that this was our anniversary, and that we would be spending the rest of the day standing in a line. Everything else had lined up perfectly: Not only was the coveted Switch console within reach, but the IRS had put my rebate in my account the day before, and my pay day was the day after. Sacrifices were still being made; not only to the precious free time that comes at the end of a workday, but to what could have otherwise been a more momentous occasion between me and my girlfriend of one year. As she sat there with an unworldly patience that wouldn’t be expected of any typical relationship, a realization gripped me that these particular circumstances were about more than Nintendo or Zelda. It was about more than those feelings I used to get when I was younger. It was about how I found a girl who supported me in those things, even in lieu of our anniversary.
It was a few minutes past midnight when I finally arrived at the counter. The brand-spanking-new Nintendo Switch and Breath of the Wild were within my grasp when I made the last-minute decision to add SnipperClips to my bill. The distinctive, plasticy smell of a new Nintendo system hadn’t changed since my first unboxing with the SNES. I made sure to take in the nostalgia before my obligatory lick of the game cart; a different sensation that I’d rather forget. A day-one update and a work day that started at 7:00 AM were the only things stopping me from diving headfirst, so I made a modest trek into the starting as my girlfriend drowsily observed.
I’ve sense laid waste to the evils of Hyrule, and I’m pleased to say that my girlfriend has begun her own quest. After having her complete Link Between Worlds a few months back, I was comfortable in letting her second exposure to Zelda be what has to be the biggest departures since Link’s Adventure tried to make the action-adventure series into a platformer. While I enjoy watching her, sometimes it’s hard not to want to help even when it’s clear she probably doesn’t need it. Doing things differently and creating your own story is part of the adventure this time around, and she’s more-than-earned her right to do it how she wants. I think we’ll both remember Breath of the Wild as one of the best Zelda games for lots of reasons, but SnipperClips has earned it’s own place for being something we can play together.
(Also Calum Bowen does the soundtrack, and I love that guy’s music!)