6: The Legend of Zelda

Genre: Action Adventure

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1986

Basic Idea: Save Zelda before it becomes cliché.

Review: My parents were huge Atari 2600 fans.  Unfortunately, they had trouble getting into most NES games.  There were a few exceptions.  The Legend of Zelda was the only game they both loved. My father, however, took his love for this game to levels never seen.  One weekend morning, afternoon, and night, deciding he wanted to find rupees and heart containers, he took it upon himself to burn every single bush in the entire game.  With the blue candle.

For those who aren’t aware, the blue candle can only be used once per screen.  The red candle, available in the seventh dungeon, can be used an unlimited number of times per screen.  But my father didn’t want to wait for that.  I remember periodically entering the living room to check on his progress.  His efforts weren’t in vain.  He found multiple hidden areas we had never come across. Thankfully, he decided not to bomb every single rock in the game.

After all these years, I am still crazy about this game.  It’s not the best game in the Zelda canon, but I would contend it’s still solidly in the top half.  A lot of the recent games (especially the handhelds) are redundant and so linear there’s virtually no problem-solving.  A lot of the games are also hurt by annoying, repetitive plots which doesn’t hamper the first game.

There is just the right amount of exploration needed here.  The map is manageable, there are plenty of secrets to be found, and the learning curve is absolutely perfect.  The dungeons are a blast.  Each one has its own secrets, including treasures, trap doors, bomb-able walls, and old men you can buy stuff from.  The biggest criticism of the game is that many of the game’s hints are anything but, as most of the people you run into give hints that were poorly translated into gibberish.  Thankfully, it rarely impedes progress.

The music is classic, if repetitive.  One thing that works really well for the game is the sound effects. Finding a hidden area with a bomb produces a very satisfying jingle.  Destroying enemies with your sword, especially Gleeok, produces an awesome crushing noise.  And I love the sound of the boomerang as it flies across the room, hopefully taking out a few bats in the process.  Speaking of enemies, I love most of them.  The darknuts are awesomely difficult but not unfair.  The tektites are deceptively obnoxious.  Like-likes are slow but scary as hell with their appetite for large shields.  The only enemy I despise are the wizzrobes.  Their completely random movements are impossible to avoid at times, making the sixth dungeon the hardest one in the game.

The final dungeon is impressive in its size, secrets, new enemies, and deceptive path to Ganon. Sadly, Ganon is pretty easy to defeat, making the end a bit anticlimactic.  The game more than makes up for this with a second quest.  Normally, playing the game over would annoy me, but the second quest is markedly different from the first, with harder to find areas, more dastardly dungeons, and significantly harder enemies that provide a welcome challenge.  Considering this was 1986, and there was a battery backup, I remain impressed after all these years.

For a long time I had The Legend of Zelda ranked as my favorite game on the system.  While my love has tapered every so slightly over the years, it will likely be a game I continue to play forever.

17 thoughts on “6: The Legend of Zelda”

  1. I have to admit, I never actually found the entrance to dungeon 7. (I think that’s the one. Where you have to burn something, right? My memory isn’t what it used to be.)

    1. I’m pretty sure that’s seven. I should probably know for sure, given how many times I’ve played this, but I’m only mostly sure.

      1. After a while I just said screw and read walkthroughs to try to get to the damn thing. It got to the point where I thought my game must just be glitched, or something.

      1. Yeah, the fairly obvious bush that I swear never burned for me. Its also possible that I’m totally mis-remembering it as not being able to get in when the real problem is that I couldn’t find some secret stone that needed to be moved to finish one of them.

        1. In the second quest, that fairly obvious bush doesn’t burn. Maybe for you it was level one. There’s that tricky bridge you have to walk on.

    1. It always amused me that they named the things Keese when you usually had to kill them to find keys. I wonder if that was done in the original translation too.

  2. Ahh, the one game I was at least okay at but didn’t beat. If I was a bit older when playing it, I might have been upset about not owning it. Could only play it at the uncle’s place and we visited rarely enough that there was no continuity. I need to play it on an emulator some time, as it remains one of the few “major” Zelda games I haven’t beaten.

  3. I am a bit disappointed that Zelda wasn’t #1 on your list, as Zelda is, and always will be, my #1 NES game of all time! And ha ha about your dad burning down all the bushes, I so remember that! And yes, the music is classic . . . I will never forget the Zelda “theme” song . . . I hope I never get dementia like my mom, but if I do . . . Beau, play that song in my ear, I’m almost sure I’d perk up and remember it! Now, I am curious what your #1 game is, guess I’ll have to wait.

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