The Legend of Zelda is an unquestionable classic from the 8-bit generation of video gaming. Anyone who had a Nintendo has either played it, or knew someone who played it. I fell in love with it the moment I laid my eyes on it. Not only is it one of the many games that shaped me as a gamer, but it is one of the few games from that era that I can pick up at any given time, and still have a blast playing it – even though I can now beat it in about an hour.
I will not deny that it can be a frustrating bastard at times, even after no less than a hundred playthroughs (although that may be a bit of an exaggeration). The random enemy movements leave little room to strategize your own movement and attacks, the placement of fire-breathing statues in conjunction with said enemies made it feel like a bullet hell dungeon crawler (long before I knew what “bullet hell” meant), and the “second quest” is damn near unbeatable without a strategy guide.
Maybe I’m slightly insane, but a game that can still give me a challenge after all these years, and all those playthroughs, is a game that’s still worth playing.
With some exceptions, there’s a great deal of freedom in playing the dungeons out of order – a freedom that wouldn’t be seen again for almost 30 years. There’s also the freedom to not explore every room in the dungeons. When you first play through the game, you feel the need to explore; with repeated playthroughs, you learn that not every room is necessary to visit. Not every locked door needs to be unlocked, and some walls can be bombed to bypass certain areas of dungeons entirely. Hell, you can even skip some special items entirely (like the Magic Wand in Level 6 and, by extension, the Magic Book in Level 8).
Anytime someone starts talking about this game, my brain immediately starts to play the dungeon theme, and I love the shit out of that tune. Sure, the title theme is iconic, and the overworld theme is known by everyone – even people who’ve never played the game. However, the dungeon theme is the one I love more than the others, because it kicks the most ass, and it makes me feel like I’m eight years old again every time I hear it.
Graphically, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Nintendo game in the mid 80s. I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing – I grew up playing these sorts of games, where my imagination would run wild with what those pixelated forests could look like in the real world, or how scary those Wizzrobes could actually be. Graphics aren’t everything, especially when gameplay is tantamount to having fun.
At least, for me it is.
I always found it weird that the game keeps track of how many times you die (on the character select screen). Even weirder though, is the number doesn’t go any higher than 255. I know this because I died more times than that in my very first playthrough, oh so many years ago. Also, 255 is the maximum amount of rupees you can hold, and they are also used as arrows, for some reason.
Some of the enemies still freak me out a little, to this day. Take the Lynels, for instance – they look like weird centaurs, and they can shoot beam swords at you, in the same way that Link does at full health. However, the beams travel much faster, and when there’s more than one Lynel on screen, shooting swords at me, I feel like I’m gonna die, even if I have full health.
The one enemy I really hate in this game are the Bubbles, not just because of erratic movements, but because they prevent you from using your sword for several seconds, if they touch you. The most annoying rooms in the dungeons have Bubbles and Wallmasters in them. I cannot count the number of times I threw my controller down in frustration after being sent back to the beginning of the dungeon, just because I couldn’t use my sword before one of those fucking hands grabbed me.
And now, a random fact:
The Legend of Zelda was also how I was first introduced to Hinduism (Side note: I’m not actually Hindu, but I was intrigued when I found out what exactly Hinduism was). Specifically, the third dungeon in this game is called “Manji,” which is a symbol of good fortune in India, and is also designed as such. It’s also worth noting that the currency in this game is the rupee (or rupy, as the title crawl suggests), which is also the currency of India.
If you’ve never played a Zelda game before, and you’re interested in playing some old school Nintendo titles, then you have to play this game. Even though A Link To The Past did everything better, that game wouldn’t exist without the original game that started it all, and without that original title, I might not be the gamer that I am today.
So play this game today, and be the Hero of Hyrule!