On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.
You can find romhacks of all kinds and levels of quality. Professional translations that seek to produce what an official localization would be, and slapdash language conversions. Graphic hacks that make Mario into Wilford Brimley. Total conversion games that turn the original into something so different that it seems like it would have been easier to have started from scratch, and juvenile dialog hacks.
This week’s hack lies on the middle ground. Alfonso De La Vega’s The Winter Lion is a game where it feels the creator’s ambition exceeded their grasp, a little. The title screen and overworld of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past really weren’t changed much, and where they were changed it’s kind of ugly. The plotting it a bit clumsy. But the writing has real poetry to it, there are some interesting ideas behind the way it uses the game’s item progression to enforce making difficult choices that fit along divergent plotlines.
I try to put a title screen into these posts to introduce the hack, but The Winter Lion doesn’t change it, at least in the current version–hacks can be updated, after all. For now though, we’ll just have to settle for gameplay images.
The Winter Lion is an interesting take on the Zelda formula in that, instead of a Link as a kid or teenager, he’s an old man. Arguably the best-realized aspect of the hack as it stands is the pixel art that puts a white beard on him. He’s still pretty small compared to the other adult characters in the game, but it looks good enough in play.
Sadly the alternate paths aspect is a bit janky. Bombs have been removed from the early game, except for a single one in the first palace. There’s a political aspect of the game where you can either follow a military path in the story by using that bomb to activate a switch, or a revolutionary path by using it on a certain building in Kakariko. If you use it anywhere else you’ve blocked Link’s progress and have to start over. It doesn’t help that some cracked walls can be opened with either the bomb or the Pegasus Boots; if you open a Boots wall with the bomb, you’ve messed it up. There is a walkthrough in the readme on the Romhacking entry, but you may want to make a save state before using that bomb, just in case.
The story is pretty one sided. It makes it clear that picking the military option is the bad one, and the revolutionary option is the good one, which, regardless of what you think about the moral choices involved is pretty obvious writing. But it’s implemented in an interesting way at least. And it’s not too difficult overall! So many romhacks are made for hardcore players that it’s refreshing to find one with only a modestly higher difficulty level. And it shows a lot of ambition by a first-time hack creator! We await future revisions of this hack, or whatever they choose to turn their attention to next.
The Winter Lion (romhacking.net, hack of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)