Monday, January 17, 2011

Nintendo Adventure Books 10: The Shadow Prince

The Crystal Trap took the unexpected tact of putting the reader in Princess Zelda’s shoes, but now Link’s back in the spotlight. Accordingly, the adventure itself is a lot more predictable.

Link and Zelda are out hunting when they find themselves about to be overrun by Moblins. Fortunately for them, that’s when a handsome stranger, Charles of Moria by name, rides in on a white stallion and fights them off with ease. Soon Zelda and her court are enamored of Charles and his tales of adventure, but Link can’t quite shake the feeling that their visitor is too good to be true…

We’ve got ourselves a mystery instead of a quest this time. Okay. Except when I first read this book at the age of ten, it took me no time at all to peg this as a sword and sorcery version of the Voltron episode “The Stolen Lion.” Which in brief means Charles is obviously up to no good (Link’s sword fighting him on the cover, and it’s supposed to be a secret?), but you’re forced to spend a lot of time sitting around impotently because you don't have any proof. Considering this was written for impatient children who knew the source material was all about killing uglies with an assortment of different weapons and magic spells, it was a reversal of expectations that didn’t quite work.

The hook falls apart before you even get past the cover, so is there anything to recommend about the book? Well…no. The puzzles are boring when they’re not inane; how does pouring a potion on a gate open the gate? I’ve never gotten that, even when I was a wide-eyed Nintendo freak who didn’t know better than to think this book was tolerable. I thought Ian Livingstone was a pretty good gamebook writer back then too. Somehow I didn’t think R.A. Montgomery was.

But back to The Shadow Prince (even the title blows the secret). If nothing else, Wayne didn’t think making the book a carbon copy of the games was a good idea like those later godawful interactive books based on Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. So if nothing else it does manage to feel like a book and not a painstaking recreation of the game. But the writing is, as with The Crystal Trap, uninteresting and forgettable.

Really the nicest thing to be said about the book is the guy who did the cover art correctly portrayed Link as left-handed before that little tidbit had become well-known (it was mentioned in the second game's manual. I'm aware). On the other hand the book portrays Ganon as a skeleton, and all you have to do is run out of lives in Adventure of Link to know that ain’t right.

Alternately, you could just read this review.

And Charles is from Moria? Switching two letters isn’t a clever in-joke, it’s just lazy. It’s just as well this was the last Legend of Zelda book in the series.

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