The Legend of Zelda marks the beginning of Nintendo’s most beloved franchise. It all started back in 1986 when The Legend of Zelda was first released for Japan’s Family Computer Disk System; though it wouldn’t be released on the NES until 1987. It was developed by a young Shigeru Miyamoto who was beginning to find footing in the world of video games. Today, Mr. Miyamoto has an impressive pedigree which includes many Zelda titles, and it was made possible because of his childhood memories and dedication to see his vision come to life.
The Legend of Zelda doesn’t reveal any story during game play; instead Nintendo included the story in its instruction manual (and a little bit during the title screen). Here is a quick summary for the story:
The land of Hyrule has passed down the Triforce for many generations. This set of golden triangles holds many mystical powers that can be used to fulfill the intents of its possessor. Ganon and his army of powerful minions invade the land of Hyrule to steal the Triforce and bring fear and darkness to the world. Zelda, sensing danger, breaks the Triforce of Widsom into eight fragments to hide throughout Hyrule in an attempt to prevent Ganon from gaining ultimate power. Zelda then instructs Impa to scour the land to find a man with enough courage to destroy Ganon and his evil intentions.
Ganon learns of this plan and imprisons Princess Zelda while Impa flees in search of this courageous man. Impa was eventually cornered by Ganon’s henchmen, but all was not lost. Link appears and saves Impa’s life. Impa tells Link of Zelda, Ganon and the powers of the Triforce. Link agrees to rebuild the Triforce of Wisdom and save the land of Hyrule from destruction.
Gamers would only know the true story when reading the instruction manual; the rest unravels as you play through the game. In a sense you could say that the story is related to the actions completed by the gamer, any success or failure is another page for the story. In my opinion, it’s incredibly brilliant to have the player fill in the blank pages as it adds an incredible amount of immersion to the game.
The Legend of Zelda is most known for its open world style and its overhead view. It’s these elements that encourage players to explore the land. It’s this sense of exploration that made Zelda quite different when compared to others in that era of gaming. Finding dungeons and direction was difficult for a lot of gamers, myself included. As a kid I had a lot of trouble finding dungeons and completing the game, which didn’t make the experience a whole lot of fun. To this day, I still wish there was more direction in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy its open world style of gaming and exploration, and like many gamers, I praise Zelda for bringing that element into play.
What made The Legend of Zelda a lot of fun for me as a kid was the ability to purchase and find new items. Obtaining these items encourages the player to use each in various ways to uncover secrets, or weaknesses for enemies. A good example is using bombs to open new paths. I also remember being excited when discovering that wearing rings would change the color of Link’s sprite. It was simple, yet exciting. Zelda is also a very simple game to control; D-Pad is used to move Link, A is your sword, B can be set to an item, Start brings up the item select/status screen and Select will pause the game.
Not only is exploration and customization an important part of Zelda, but the combat and dungeon crawling are also integral. I enjoyed every moment of finding the next Dungeon Level, which is probably why I felt like I had achieved something incredible when discovering these dungeons. It was in these dungeons that the bulk of the game was enjoyable for me; beating up on enemies, finding the map, compass and new item, solving puzzles and eventually destroying the dungeon boss.
If I were to criticize anything, it would be the way Link swings his sword in the game. His sword is used in a stabbing motion which makes some enemies difficult to defeat. I think the majority of the game’s difficulty can be blamed on the sword attack, but later entries in the series would solve this problem.
Another strong point for The Legend of Zelda is the sound and graphic elements. No one can deny the sense of adventure felt when the main theme begins to blast out of the TV, or the sense of dread when fighting through each dungeon. It makes playing Zelda a very fun audible experience. Its graphics at the time were also quite good for the 8-Bit era including some finely detailed sprites; though it is by no means the best that the NES could offer. When speaking of the visual impact, one should also mention the look and feel of Hyrule. Hyrule isn’t your standard world and that becomes quite clear early. It is full of monsters and strange looking environments, both of which made the game mysterious to me as a kid and even now. However, I now understand that it was the consoles limitations which made the game look foreign, but in my opinion, this really helped bring an undeniable charm to the land of Hyrule.
3/5 D-Pads: The Legend of Zelda wasn’t a typical game in a time of the sidescroller. It was a fresh open exploration idea mixed with a customization approach that enticed gamers to play. It had adventurous theme songs and mysterious graphics, but it also holds that strong gameplay element that gamers love in the series today. While Zelda does have a few flaws, they are mostly outshined by many other elements included in the game. If you haven’t played Zelda, do yourself a favour and find a copy, or download it on the Virtual Console.