The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo (1986) NES

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Zelda, the useless bint is on screen for less than 5 seconds, yet it is all about her. Feminism gone mad! Bloody bra burners!

Meanwhile poor Link, doesn’t even get a mention in his first starring game…

Story

You need the original NES cartridge to read the story, as very little is explained, but… You’re Zelda Link, and you’re attempting to restore order to the land of Hyrule. Ganon and his army have invaded, and stolen the Triforce of Power. Zelda, in her infinite wisdom decides to break the Triforce of Wisdom into 8 pieces and hides these pieces in 8 secret dungeons.

Ganon tracks down and kidnaps Zelda, Zelda then dispatches Impa to find somebody courageous enough to rescue Zelda, enter Link. Bloke says “It is dangerous to go alone, take this” and we are on our merry way.

It's dangerous to go alone

To be honest, reading this story, and playing the game, it surprises me how little has changed in the Zelda series since then.

  • Zelda kipnapped, check
  • Mute Link, check
  • Impa, check,
  • Triforce of Power, check
  • Triforce of Wisdom, check
  • Triforce of Courage, errrrrrr…

I guess in the first game it is the Biforce?

LoZ does a good job of setting up the entire series. The only thing missing from LoZ is an Ocarina or hookshot, and nearly all the enemies are here.

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Graphics/Music

This being a NES game, Zelda is all 8bitty. You do get significant sprite slowdown in later levels when you have 8+ enemies running around, but other than that, the graphics are as well defined as they can be for a “large” game on the NES.

The music, is actually pretty good, but again, is limited by the medium. You get the Overworld theme, which is the standard Zelda track, and you get a dungeon theme. So while the music is memorable, there isn’t a lot of it.

OK I’m lost…

LoZ falls into the classic NES trap of, urrrgh, “where do I go?“, or “what do I do now?“. In 1986, your only bet was to try one of those phone tip lines, Nintendo Power still hadn’t been released, so you were screwed! A lot of the sections are just obtuse, and frankly a little unfair. With the help of the Internet, obviously life is made easier, but i do resent having to use guides.

Examples include, the Hungry Goriya. In Dungeon 7, you can not proceed, as a dude is blocking your path. The only “hint” you’re given is “Grumble, Grumble“, it might seem obvious to you, but “Grumble, Grumble” means you need to go to one of the shops in Hyrule, and buy some food (called bait in the manual). You then give the food to Goriya.

Even the description in the manual is unhelpful:

“Link can use this bait to lure the enemy and bump them off as they come to eat it”… BULLSHIT! Link to manual.

Areas like Dungeon 8 are completely hidden, and you would never guess to burn a certain bush. I understand this for optional items, like extra heart containers, but integral areas of the game shouldn’t require that level of bullshit.

Difficulty

LoZ has a sensible difficulty curve, it gets progressively harder, and it isn’t until dungeon 3 that you might die for the first time.

Once you complete dungeon 4, and have the ladder, you are encouraged to explore. You can find extra health, better armour, and a better shield. Some of this can be bought from shops  (for a rather unreasonable price), or, you can schlep around the dungeons, exploring every nook and cranny, blowing up every wall, until you discover a secret. It adds a nice dimension to you exploring, and not simply being FORCED to go into every room for check boxing purposes.

Some bosses are annoying in how they are defeated, but what I did like is the item to beat them isn’t in the room before the boss. In Ocarina of Time, you knew if you got an item in that dungeon, that item beat the boss. In LoZ, you get the bow in dungeon 1, but don’t need it until 6. The only exceptions are the silver arrows, found in Death Mountain, and the Whistle in Level 5.

Finally, when you beat the game, you can do the Second Quest. This is a harder rearranged version of the normal game. Dungeons are in different places, and you beat them in a different order. Also, dungeons will now have multiple bosses.

Basically, Second Quest is WAAAAAAAAAY more fun.

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Overall

My playthrough was roughly 7 hours (with a guide), so there is some meat to the bones, and you’ll have a good time, so I do recommend playing it, but judging Zelda is hard, you are always one comment away from enraged fanboys.

The problem I have, is what LoZ gets away with, that other games didn’t. Take Castlevania 2, kneeling at the wall for the wind to take you away. This is rightly derided as awful gameplay, and is considered terrible, but Zelda does it, with “Grumble, Grumble” and we just accept it?

This isn’t to say Legend of Zelda is a bad game, it just isn’t AS good as people make you believe.

Pros: This game started a cultural force. Pretty much everything that appears in Zelda is introduced here

Cons: Millions of people still call Link, Zelda. Obscure/obtuse puzzling. Pretty much everything that appears in Zelda is introduced here

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