History of Zelda: Part 01 – The Legend of Zelda

The History of Zelda – Part 1

The Legend of Zelda. Indeed, this name is as recognisable in Video Game fame as Mario, and even Final Fantasy. Close to thirty years ago, Nintendo hired a man who would, of all things, design concepts for toys. Little did anybody know that this man would write history, influence hundreds of games, oversee the development of even more and define an entirely new genre. Shigeru Miyamoto devised the first iteration of The Legend of Zelda in the mid 1980s, and since then, The Legend of Zelda has become one of Nintendo’s very best properties.

This series of articles will look at each Zelda title in chronological order of release, describe the groundbreaking achievements and show the essence of the Action Adventure RPG.

Chapter I – The Legend of Zelda (NES)

In the middle of Summer of 1987 (or Winter if you happen to live where I do :P), Nintendo unleashed on this world of ours a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and it was this definitive point in time that millions of people were introduce to the world of Hyrule. A land of enchantment, expansive plains, forests and mountains, – and monsters to boot. This would be the setting of many games, and the origin of many others.

Our story began with a young boy named Link, who was chosen by destiny to save the royal Princess Zelda, gather the mythical Triforce of Wisdom pieces, and overthrow the evil Ganon. It offered players the chance to play the role of a character, and to utilise his strengths to wage battles with enemies, but there was no set path, you chose the way, you chose where to go. It was this unbelievable freedom that many had never felt before, a thrill, an addiction that wouldn’t allow people to walk away until it was all over.

However, Link’s road to victory was filled with wild beasts, monsters and nine dungeons. An entire cast including Molblins, Octoroks, Tektites and Stalfos as well as Armos Knights and Zolas (later Zoras, and even later River Zoras) riddled the land in an attempt to hinder the hero of destiny. But we were also introduced to Link’s trusty arsenal, his sword and shield, bow and arrows, bombs and boomerang, Rubies, the currency of this land (later becoming Rupees), and of course, maps and compasses. The world was there, its inhabitants alive, and the treasures were hidden. The stage was set, now all it took was a hero to prevail.

Information Banks. Link’s first adventure incorporated an intuitive new gaming style that saw the action from overhead, as well as displaying equipped items, rather than traditional side-scrolling views like that in Super Mario Bros. Not only this, but a unique Quest Status screen that displayed all your items, Triforce pieces collected, heart containers, keys and rupees. This status screen has been a staple of Zelda titles even to today, and is highly suited to the broad adventure of each game. Gone were the scoring systems, the points tally and the free lives. The Legend of Zelda brought to light the excitement of a goal, an adventure. If you died, there was no second chance; you began all over again. And a death meter kept you in check. Only when you finish this game with zero deaths, have you come close to mastering its mechanics.

Enter the Action Adventure RPG. One of the most encouraging aspects of Zelda is its freedom and ability to fight, or not, depending on your mood. Advancing on in the game doesn’t require unnecessary battles, but they are valuable, especially for that desperately needed heart or rupees. And the difficulty really begins to kick in when five or more monsters are on the one screen in a total melee of confusion, dodging, shielding and attacking. The adrenalin really gets pumping with only half of a heart left, and you have got to do everything possible to save yourself. It’s a sense of survival, and its this feeling that keeps the player hooked on this game for hours on end.

An aspect that has really made The Legend of Zelda stand out from the crowd is the length of the adventure, and Nintendo has really implemented this in an involving and purpose filled way. As well as the enormous amount of game play with nine dungeons, there were also upgrades. All through The Legend of Zelda, you will find yourself acquiring powerful sword upgrades, improved arrows and the ability to increase your defence and life. Without these upgrades, you wouldn’t be able gain heart containers, which are most definitely vital in the last battle. Should you survive that battle, you should consider the second quest… It is for the lifespan that you are getting what you pay for, and with Zelda, it’s worth every cent.

The Legend of Zelda on Nintendo’s first system was pure inspiration at its finest. The influence of this game is obvious with many games, (Secret of Mana, even Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy), and hardware alike. Without any doubt, The Legend of Zelda is a substantial definition of the Action Adventure RPG. Sales in excess of 6 million units are a testiment to the impact made by this game on gamers worldwide.