There once was a time, long before the days of the internet, when groups of friends would gather in playgrounds all over the world and discuss the games they were playing.
I grew up having daily lunchtime chats with my pals about the big game of the moment, sharing secrets and offering advice to each other along the way.
I told one of my pals about the warp zone in the whale area in Super Mario Bros 2. He told me how to solve the Deborah Cliff puzzle in Castlevania II (he got it from a magazine: there’s no way we’d have figured it out otherwise).
That sense of camaraderie is still there to an extent these days: when new games are released, they’ll enjoy the spotlight on Twitter for a week or so while people share screenshots and clips of stuff they’ve done.
Retro games, though, no longer get to enjoy this. Because the emphasis these days is on playing the big new games on day one because of the old FOMO issue, anyone trying to discover an old game for the first time will most likely be doing so on their lonesome.
It’s a shame, because older games are often the ones that most need to be discussed with others. In the days before hand-holding was commonplace and many games became about simply running to the next flashing point on your map, 8-bit and 16-bit games were regularly happy to leave you in the dark and make you figure it out yourself.
I miss the days when friends would come together and share their experiences, their advice and their enthusiasm for the purposes of helping each other out, rather than to try and get likes on Twitter. So I’m trying to get those days back.
Welcome to the Tired Old Hack Game Club!
The Tired Old Hack Game Club is a new group in which, for a month at a time, like-minded gamers can play through retro games together.
Instead of trying to decipher a potentially troublesome retro game and figure out what makes it tick by wading your way through terrible online FAQs written by 13-year-old amateur comedians, you’ll instead be able to take comfort in the fact that a bunch of other folk are also playing through the same game as you, and you’ll be able to talk to them about it.
Stuck in a particular area? Struggling to get to grips with the game’s mechanics? Found a particularly cool trick and want to share it? Have you drawn your own map to help you get through a dungeon, and you want to proudly offer it to others to help them? This is for you.
Each month yer man Scullion will pick a retro game for everyone to play together. These will almost always be games that are easy to get hold of and affordable: I’m not going to ask you to buy an Atari Jaguar and drop £80 on Alien vs Predator or anything like that. Ideally, nothing in the Game Club will cost more than £10.
Anyone wishing to take part in the Game Club will be able to join the discussion on the Tired Old Hack Discord server. If you haven’t already joined or are new to Discord, it’s essentially just a chat room with various channels: the Tired Old Hack one has channels dedicated to the site itself, Nintendo games, Xbox games, PlayStation games, retro gaming, off-topic and the likes.
As of right this bloody moment, the Tired Old Hack Discord server now has a shiny new channel called #game-club – this is where all your Game Club discussions can take place.
If you’re interested, then, follow this link to sign up to the Tired Old Hack Discord server, and join in the conversation.
Throughout the month I’ll be jumping in to share little tidbits about the game, and post old magazine articles, be that reviews (so you can see what people thought of it at the time) or tips sections (so you can get help like we did back in the day).
The future of Game Club relies on your participation, really. If only a couple of people do it and there’s no real enthusiasm for it, then I’ll scrap it and chalk it up to experience. If, on the other hand, it results in a lovely wee community of like-minded gamers discovering classic games for the first time together, then it’ll continue for as long as possible.
That said, sign up to the Discord if you’re interested and let’s get cracking! This month’s game is:
Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link
Nintendo / Nintendo EAD
As soon as the idea of a Game Club was raised by one of my lovely Patreon people, Zelda II was the first game that immediately popped into my head as a perfect fit.
Of all the games in the Legend Of Zelda series, Zelda II is the one that most players struggle to get into.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve mentioned Zelda II over the years, only to have people reply saying they tried it for 15-30 minutes and gave up on it because it was too hard or confusing.
This is perfectly understandable: Zelda II has easily the roughest opening hour in any Zelda game, especially if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing. But now you’ve got Game Club, so we can work it out together. I mean, except me, because I already completed it back in the day.
Are you in? Splendid, let’s get started.
How to get it
There are a bunch of ways to get Zelda II, if you fancy taking part in this month’s Game Club.
• If you’re subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online, it’s one of the free NES games available to play on your Switch.
• It’s one of the 30 games on the NES Classic mini console.
• You can get it on the 3DS eShop for £4.49 / $4.99
• You can get it on the Wii U eShop for £3.49 / $4.99
• It was also released on the Game Boy Advance (as part of the Classic NES Series) and the GameCube (in the Legend Of Zelda: Collector’s Edition game).
• Finally, if you’re dodgy, you can obviously also run it on an NES emulator.
The first thing to bear in mind when you’re starting Zelda II is that it isn’t like other Zelda games. Whereas the original game and A Link To The Past were entirely top-down adventures, Zelda II switches to a side-scrolling viewpoint any time you encounter enemies.
It’s also more of an action RPG than an adventure game, in that Link can collect experience points that can increase his stats and give him new abilities.
This is one of the reasons why it’s so tricky at first: he starts off incredibly weak and gets more powerful as you go along.
Here’s my main advice before you do anything else, though. The single reason why most people today struggle with Zelda II is because they’re either playing it or an emulator or playing one of its many eShop or Switch re-releases, and they haven’t had access to the game’s original manual.
I’m not talking about just learning the controls, or any of the normal stuff you get in a manual. Most people don’t realise that the Zelda II manual actually takes you through the opening hour or two and explains how to reach the first town, and the first palace beyond that.
If you read the manual and follow its instructions you’ll be off to a great start. Here’s the PDF, because I’m nice like that.
You should now have enough to get started on your adventure. When you’re ready, hop into the Discord server to begin chatting about it with your new Game Club pals: how are you finding the game so far? Have you discovered any strategies to help you in the early stages? Are you stuck and not sure where to go next?
See you in the chat!
NOTE: One final request. If you’ve already beaten Zelda II and fancy yourself as a bit of an expert, by all means take part in the discussions but please don’t try to become some sort of oracle of knowledge. The point of Game Club is for people who haven’t beaten the game before to experience it together: having someone give them all the answers all the time ruins the fun a bit. Besides, nobody likes a smart-arse.