Saturday 29th saw me take a long train journey to a part of England I have never even thought about visiting in the past. Nottingham. No, this wasn’t for some kind of sport event or just for a nice stroll around the shops (though that did happen), I took the expensive and long winded train ride to the city in order to find a ton of nerds to celebrate the anniversary of a fictional character, albeit very iconic fictional character. Link, from the Legend of Zelda series.
Yes, this year marks the 25th Anniversary of Nintendo’s flagship Legend of Zelda franchise. A momentous event that, after their E3 presentation this year, everyone should have known about. Pushing the spotlight away from Nintendo’s other creation, Metroid, which is crying in it’s bedroom wondering why nobody even breathes of word of it, Nintendo really went all out to congratulate and reward fans for their dedication to the series. This day in particular saw Nottingham’s market square taken hostage by a large white box with a steady stream of fanatics wrapping themselves around it.
The “Zelda takeover day” was part of Nottingham’s annual GameCity festival, an event which showcases gaming culture and plays host to numerous lectures and workshops from famous or upcoming game developers. What better place to celebrate an adventurer in a green hat than the birth place of Robin Hood; which I suppose is fitting as he wore a green hat!
Fans were queuing all the way around the back of the venue as I arrived. At this time the event had already been on-going for at least an hour, and I can safety say the queue didn’t get any shorter throughout the day. It was amazing to wonder around the streets of Nottingham seeing kids dressed as Zelda and Link, though with their age, you had to question whether they actually knew who the hell they were dressed as. Kudos to their parents though for their Nintendo dedication! It wasn’t quite the cosplay barrage you see in London during the MCM Expo (which was actually taken place on that same day), but there was a great amount of amazing cosplay on show. It ranged from Link and Zelda, to Midna, Skull Kid Majora and even the Postman! Sadly I didn’t come across Zant, I still hope to bump into him before I have take the reins and make the costume myself.
After around 30 minutes of queuing (thanks to the ONM guys for providing magazines) and 10 minutes of watching the venue bouncer manage to sweet-talk a drink from one of the attendees, we were finally allowed to enter the celebration, and got offered a small cup of milk, paying homage to the series’ Lon Lon Ranch treat. Immediately you could understand the reason for the queue, the place was filled to the brim with hundreds of devotees, and parents sitting at the corner tables wondering what was going on. The place was hardly the Market Town transformation most of us were expecting from the advertisement, but it was still a beautiful setup in it’s own way. After walking past the stall of wooden weapons, cake, random tree, and bewildered parents, we were met with giant chalk boards lining the venue all displaying hand drawn artwork around the screens of playable Wii consoles, each playing an old classic from the franchise. A long table was set up in the centre for fans to design their own shield or just to show off their drawing skills to the dozens of onlookers. Around the opposite side of the chalkboard walls fans could pick up the chalk and leave their own mark on the event by scribbling whatever they wanted on the panels. Reading the classic references, and looking at the fun pictures being drawn, it gave a good insight to the types of fans these games have reached over the last quarter of a century.
By far, the selling point of the event were the stage activities. Throughout the day the stage was controlled by a representative in a red tunic. For the majority of time I was there, the stage was open to the crowds to take their shot at the scoreboards of Link’s Crossbow Training while at regular intervals it was turned into a training ground or swordsmanship as the rep got everyone involved in some friendly swordplay. Although I missed the ocarina orchestra and the cosplay contest, I can judge from the chatter around me later on that they were just as enjoyable. At times it did feel like a kid’s party, but that was all part of the fun, if you were to proud to make a fool of yourself, you were bound to feel disappointed at the event. Congratulations go to the stage representative for putting on a good show throughout the day, he must have gone home tired yet incredibly proud.
Giveaways were going on throughout the day, the Official Nintendo Magazine was being handed out to everyone in the queue outside, teasing us all with screens of Skyward Sword, knowing it was just a steps away from us made the wait that much more fun. The fan-made Zelda-zine was snatched up by the eager fans as soon as they learned of it’s location, charging out of the venue to find Page45 comics just as I got in. Ocarina’s were being given out earlier, sadly before I managed to get inside, though they looked like those given to Australian pre-orders of Ocarina of Time 3D with key rings being given out to winners of a chest shuffle game inside the event. I only managed to come home with a magazine along with a copy of Cataclysm and some manga which I bought, feeling sorry for myself after missing the giveaways.
I have to say, the GameCity team did a fantastic job of selling the event. I’m sure most of us were expecting an actual transformed market square with a milk bar like the advertisement said, but even if it wasn’t all that is was cracked up to be, it was still a really fun day out. It was fantastic to have a gathering just for fans of this iconic series, but it could and should have been more. The Battlefield booth next door could only have dreamt of having queues like it’s neighbour.