Release Date: 1987
I can hardly believe that I have yet to post a blog about one of the biggest game franchises, and one of the most beloved games of all time. Anyone who is an avid gamer has certainly played the original Legend of Zelda on the 8-bit Nintendo, and anyone who has not, is not a true gamer, at least in my opinion. The Legend of Zelda is a true classic, and has spawned an entire franchise of games, cartoons, and merchandise. Even 25 years after it's debut, the Zelda franchise has managed to stay near the top of pop-culture. With that out of the way, let's move on to my own experience with the original game.
To be honest, I don't recall how I came to know of this games' existence, but I am fairly certain it had to do with Ben. This game was right up his alley. Puzzles, mazes, and secret hidden items was what he was all about. I remember seeing him play it, and then borrowing the golden cartridge for myself. The only game I knew of that actually had a golden cartridge. Having never seen a cartridge this color before, it reminded me of C-3PO from Star Wars, so I thought it could be a good game, and gave it a go. Being a novice gamer at the time, I had a difficult time playing this game with any success, and was always calling Ben on the phone to ask him how to get past areas within the game, or where to find the items needed to advance. There was no internet at the time, and I don't recall seeing any published strategy guides back then, so I had nothing but my own wits, and Ben's advice to go on. Sadly, here is another classic game I can say I have never completed to 100%. But, despite that, I still find myself re-playing this game from time to time, just to get a Zelda fix.
Designer Shigeru Miyamoto really nailed this one. The overhead view, the weapons, the dungeons, the enemies and all the bosses were done perfectly. This game puts you in the shoes of Link, the legendary hero of Hyrule. I look back now, and realize that I made the mistake of thinking that the hero's name was Zelda. I know I am not the only person who made this mistake, but I digress. Your mission is to fight your way through the lands of Hyrule, and rescue Princess Zelda. But in order to accomplish this, you must make your way through several dungeons, each containing a mini-boss, and some kind of treasure that will help you later on in the game. It's these upgrades/treasures that make this game so great in my mind. Boomerangs, lanterns, rafts, bows/arrows, bombs, etc. Most of these upgrades, once obtained, will usually allow you to access a new area of the game that weren't previously available. Usually the path to the next dungeon. It's also worth noting that the special items found in each dungeon will usually help you in defeating the boss of the dungeon in witch they are found, along with assisting in killing the dungeon enemies quicker. Yes, there are many good things about this game. But there are also a lot of bad/frustrating aspects as well. Let's move on to those...
OK, I will admit, that there is nothing that truly qualifies as "bad" in the original Legend of Zelda. It's more accurate to say that there are frustrating aspects of the game. They include, the cryptic puzzles, and the unexplained features of game play. Yes I understand now, that this is designed to allow the player to try and solve problems on their own, and to figure things out through trial and error. There are some subtle clues found from the various people you encounter, but there are also plenty of blind or simply hidden items (knowing what bush to burn or what knight statue to push come to mind). There is also an area where you have to climb the mountain to reach a dungeon, but in order to do it, you have to exit the screen in the correct sequence, to achieve it. As I stated earlier, playing this game before the age of the internet, meant that this was truly a game of wits. Zelda, in my opinion, is the reason why walkthroughs exist today. This game is difficult....fun....but difficult.
Zelda. The name itself, should be enough to summarize this game. Most people have enough of their own experiences and fond memories to provide appropriate feedback. For me, this game defines everything it means to be a true classic. The perfect amount of puzzle-solving and hack-n-slash fighting. This game, along with Super Mario Brothers, truly defined the 8-bit Nintendo console, and went on to help define the next generation consoles as well. Zelda is a franchise that will always have a special place in my heart, one that will forever stand the test of time.