Until I was nine, my world was ruled by sharks. I spent hours poring over books and swapping trivia with similarly fanatical friends, or drawing pictures of neatly crayoned giant fish. It was like living in a pack of Top Trumps.
Then in 1991 A Link to the Past happened and I became obsessed with flippers, rather than fins. I'd played other computer games before, but Zelda smugly set up home in my head like a 16-bit cuckoo, throwing out any memories of its predecessors.
I'd spent years playing at quests, potions and good versus evil so I was totally equipped to fall in love with Link's quest. It also put us front and centre. Nintendo took what I already knew from books and, well, from being nine - that children were inherently more useful than adults - and ingeniously made it into a game. I didn't have a SNES of my own so I spent hours transfixed in front of my friend Annabel's telly watching her play.
The girl was an artist; an instinctive gamer who turned Zelda into a cinematic experience, while I willed her on like a silent Navi. I didn't pick up the controller until years later, and then it felt a bit weird to play it solo.
A Link to the Past's cartoonish visuals made me fall in love with anime before I knew what that was. Even now, few games can touch it for colour and crispness, not to mention epic gameplay (which included abandoning the sidescrolling perspective of the previous Zelda game for an overhead viewpoint), and I adored the characters, the terror of the Dark World, even the magic hammer for no better reason than that it made a nice little "thwock thwock" sound when you bashed stakes.
And the music! While the fairies' theme was as comforting as a bag of pick 'n' mix, the dungeons felt genuinely threatening. I can't be the only one to have spent a small fortune on tickets for the 25th anniversary concert coming up in October...
The downside was that I became so imprinted on Zelda's top-down gameplay that I stuck firmly to the SNES, Game Boy and GBA titles. I missed out on the entire N64 and Wii canon because I found first-person Link deeply confusing. It's only now that I'm getting into it, with the equally remarkable Ocarina of Time on the 3DS.
A Link To The Past is a defining point for Nintendo, forming the template for every Zelda game since. More than that, it is for me, as a gamer. It opened my eyes to more than books and films, and it also defines my longest friendship. Annabel and I are having a Nintendo themed 30th next year. No prizes for guessing who we'll be dressed as...
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