Legend of Zelda (NES)
What no one can argue, however, is that the game was absolutely huge and influential at the time. In 1986 and 1987 this blew open the doors to what people percieved a video game to be. Despite what people may think today about Grand Theft Auto III, THIS is the original go anywhere, do anything, freedom-focused game. Up to this point, this type of concept had never been tried, at least not to this extent. Even Nintendo thought the game was a little too risky when the blueprint for Zelda was presented. They thought that the gamer needed a little more direction on what to do and where to go in a game, and they feared that people would become easily frustrated. Worse, they feared that gamers would be BORED walking around a huge open land looking for dungeons, heart containers, items, weapons, and pieces of the lost triforce.
Additionally, extra features would have to be included for this new type of game. Due to the size, an internal battery would have to be installed to each copy for data saving. Players would even have to employ a ritual to save that data by holding the reset button when they turned the game off! Thankfully, Nintendo took a chance on the game, thus altering the history of video games forever. Upon completion of the project they knew they had something for the ages and they sealed the game in "gold" to entice curious gamers. It went onto sell millions of copies, influence future RPGs, created a new genre in gaming called Adventure, and "Zelda" and "Link" became household names.
Truth be told, many of us wouldn't be interested in gaming if it wasn't for the impact of this one game and the series it spawned. You are Link, lost in the land of Hyrule, looking to save the princess Zelda and the Triforce from the grasps of the evil pig/devil/thing Ganon. Of course, you don't know any of that; most gamers thought they were playing as Zelda! Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto has famously cited his childhood love of nature exploration as the inspiration for this game, and it shows. You traverse a huge, open land of deserts, forests, caves, mountains, dungeons, lakes, and waterfalls with NO DIRECTION.
If you find the first dungeon first; good for you! You're going in the correct order! If you find the fourth dungeon first, without getting any of the necessary weapon upgrades or experience; too bad! Prepare to die... a lot! Not only is finding the proper sequence of levels left to chance, there are also pertenant items that are hidden in bushes, rocks, cliffs, caves, or statues that require a precisely placed flame or bomb to acquire. My next door neighbors, my older brother, and I would get together every day trying to find these items, usually resulting in hour after hour of throwing the candle on random bushes until we found a staircase. Sometimes it was an important item that we needed to continue our quest. Sometimes it was money needed to buy items. Sometimes it was a grumbler asking us to pay for the door repair. At any rate, everyone felt this game was DIFFERENT.
But Miyamoto's genius was this exploration concept for the Legend of Zelda. This was not a platformer that took time and practice to get the reflexes right. This was a game that took an entire community to talk about TOGETHER in order to compltet. If Seinfeld is the "water cooler show," then Zelda was the "playground game;" kids at my school would meet together and start conversations off with, "I found the raft!" This lead to interest from other kids who didn't own the NES and BAM!; instant, no cost marketing for the game and its associated system! It was a genius concept that Konami would try to emulate for Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Other games caught on and followed suit. Now, you're hard pressed to find an action or adventure game that doesn't require a friend, bradygames strategy guide, or internet walkthrough to reach the end. But community based games started here.
It's easy to get caught up in the history of it. I mean, look at the length of this review already! But the fact of the matter is, the game is FUN. Every five years or so I rediscover this game. We had our SNES hooked up after a couple years of owning it and I saw our then out of style NES sitting in a corner collecting dust. Next to the system was that golden cartridge and I played it again and loved every minute. When I was 21, I had been out of the country and away from most technology and entertainment for a full two years. Upon returning to my parents' house, I found our NES again. I wondered if Zelda would still be as fun as when I was 7 and started playing. I played for hours, well into the night. At 4 a.m. I had to finally call it quits before reaching the final dungeon. Of course, upon awakening, it was the first thing I did the next day. After several years of marriage and after finding a cheap, used "NES classics" copy, I bought the GBA version for the peripheral slot on my DS Lite. And for a few hours I was a kid again, remembering how all that wonder and excitement felt with each successful beam from the Master Sword and angled throw of the silver boomerrang. It's still enjoyable TODAY. Reviewers and critics that say love of this game is purely rooted in nostalgia are SO WRONG! This game will be fun forever. It will be as incredibly fun, challenging, and epic in 2087 as it was in 1987.
Legend of Zelda Grade: A+