Friday, 8 February 2013

Serial Killer: Legend of Zelda #1 - THE Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda. One of the greatest game franchises in history, it has sold nearly 70 million copies over the past 26 years. Many gamers have grown up playing Zelda games, including yours truly, but I do have one little issue with the series. I have never beaten a Zelda game. I usually get so far and then...stop. For no real reason. I figured it was time I did something about this. So, naturally, I decided to play the entire series; from the original Nintendo's Legend of Zelda to Skyward Sword for the Wii. I own just about every one of the main games, with the exception of the Oracle games and Spirit Tracks (which will be rectified by the end of this...). I'm either going to have a new found love for the series...or have an irrational fear of green tunics.

Well let's get to it then. It's time to go back in time, to the land of 8-bits, the Nintendo Entertainment System...

Despite owning this game twice (a physical NES copy and the free 3DS digital copy I got), I had only played this for a total of about ten minutes before starting this. So let's get right to it then...

Quick Note: As this game probably has the least to talk about, I've used this opportunity to explain more about the general idea of how the game works. Expect future updates to be less 'dry'.


The story of the game is simple, Zelda has been imprisoned by 'The Prince of Darkness' Ganon. Ganon plans to use the Triforce, three powerful artifacts (Wisdom, Power and Courage), to rule the world with fear! Before being imprisoned, Zelda split her Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces and scattered them across the land. It is up to Link to collect all the pieces in order to have enough power to defeat Ganon and save Hyrule once and for all. Our adventure starts when we meet an old man in a cave...

We grab his wooden sword (easy, now) and be on our way!


You spend most of your time exploring the 'overworld', travelling from dungeon to dungeon. The overworld is a 16x8 grid, it's not exactly small, but it's not dauntingly massive either. However there is much more to do than just travel. For instance, you can kill. There are so many enemies to kill and they like to drop goodies after you viciously murder them. This is a good way to collect Rupees, the games currency, early on as well as hearts for healing and bombs to blow stuff up. Bombs are infinitely useful, not only can they be used to blow up enemies, but they can be used to blow up some walls and uncover secrets. What's that? What is the secret? Now, it wouldn't be a secret if I told you what you can find. It is a secret for nobody!

Ugh, fine, or for everybody I guess. There are several hidden spots in certain maps where you can find this generous Moblin, who will share his Rupee stash. Sometimes it's not much, like shown, but there is at least one where he will give you 100, which is incredibly handy. The game hands you rupees like they're flyers, so don't be shy in spending. There are shops where you can buy a variety of items including bombs, a better shield, arrows (you just need to buy it once, and then each arrow automatically used a rupee) and later on, the blue ring (which changes the colour of your tunic somehow, and also halves the damage you take). You can also buy potions if you find the old man with the blue letter and show it to the old woman (that's their actual names...). Speaking of the Old Man...

He is everywhere in this game. He's in numerous caves, offering you advice, new swords, health upgrades (shown above. Always pick the heart...) and even a chance to play a little gambling game to get more rupees.

Sometimes you can find useful items that you need to progress the game with in the overworld, including the power bracelet (lets you push certain objects). However, most of your items come from the dungeons.

There are nine dungeons in the game, the first eight all contain a piece of the triforce while the ninth is where Ganon is. Each dungeon is a series of rooms, most of which have enemies to stab in the face. Sometimes you need to murder them all to progress, sometimes you need to find keys to unlock doors. There is the occasional room where the only way to unlock the staircase is by pushing a block out of the way, or into the right place. The puzzles never get any harder than that.

Most dungeons have an item to collect, usually quite useful ones such as the bow, the stepladder (to walk over one-square wide bodies of water) and the magic wand (like the bow + arrow, but doesn't cost rupees to use). Some are only useful around once in the game, like the whistle (used to beat one boss and to get to a dungeon).

Every dungeon map is in the shape of something; level 1 is in the shape of an eagle, level 2 is the moon, level 3 is a swastikahhhh...

I mean, err, it's a Manji. Yes that's what it is. See what you think it is? Forget that, it's not that. Besides, the boss of the dungeon is a 'Manhandla', not Hitler in a robot suit...though that'd be better...

Each dungeon ends in a boss. They usually range from really easy (this one takes two bombs to kill, a later boss takes one arrow to the eye) to kinda easy (the three headed dragon that shoots fireballs at you gave me a little trouble). Some bosses have a specific weakness, but there's usually an Old Man giving you a vague, badly translated hint on how to beat them. The Old Man shows up in the dungeons to give you some sweet tips like..

Cheers for the advice, Gramps. What he is TRYING to tell us is to bomb the wall to the left, but it just comes across as this vague nonsense.

But I digress, back to the bosses. Each one drops a Heart Container, granting Link an extra heart of health, while defeating them opens up the final room, where the triforce piece is.

Do this eight times and you will have the triforce of wisdom, which is the only way to get into the final dungeon and meet the final boss..

Ganon. He's a bit of a pain, but by this point if you have all the heart containers and the red ring (1/4 damage) it shouldn't be too hard. He'll turn invisible and shoot at you from different areas of the room. Just swing your sword at where he's shooting from and you can hit him. Hit him four times he will turn brown, then all it takes is a silver arrow to the face and he is dead and we've saved Zelda.

There is a Second Quest (same game, dungeon layout is different, enemies are harder etc), but that's simply for those looking for additional challenge. I have thirteen more games in this series to play, so I cannot delay.

Things I Like

It's still fun to explore and that chime that plays whenever you collect an item (as well as the one whenever you discover a secret, or the way forward) is satisfying even in 8-bit. The game can be challenging, but it is never unfair (unless there is a room of god damn Wizzrobes. I can only assume Satan himself programmed them into the game...) and it's not too long, you could complete it in just a few hours even on your first try. There's a reason few Zelda games stray from the same formula set up in this game, it worked then and it continues to work now.

Things I Don't Like

There's nothing wrong with the game per se, but it has definitely aged. Sequels took the formula of the game and made it better and in comparison the original does not hold up great. There's also around four music tracks in-game. This isn't a problem unless you're me who gets lost all the time. The main theme of Zelda maybe legendary, but even it gets grating when you're getting frustrated at being lost.


So, there can be no denying that the game is very dated now. Dated, but a whole load of fun none-the-less. It's best to look back at this game as the foundations in which the series built upon the legendary games of the future. It's a good thing, then, that they didn't do something stupid like make the sequel completely different, like a sidescroller RPG or whatever, you already know the punchline here:

Next Time: We adventure with Link as he gets lost inside a Castlevania game.

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