Developed/Published By: Nintendo
Directed By: Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi Tezuka
Release Date: February 21, 1986
With the announcement of the Switch HD remake of Link’s Awakening, I figured now would be a great time to begin a new journey back through one of my favorite franchises. Get ready for an adventure guys and gals! It’s time for The Legend of Zelda!
With how many open world games are coming out nowadays, it’s hard to remember that these kinds of games used to be few and far between. In the old days, games were extremely linear, leaving little room for player freedom. For example, the first Super Mario Bros. game is as simple as you can get: go from left to right. At best, you’d find a shortcut that sends you ahead a few levels. There wasn’t really a game that allowed the player nigh endless freedom.
Enter the first Legend of Zelda. For the first time, game players all over the world weren’t just given a fun adventure. They were given an adventure that they could make their own! Where you went, what you did, and in what order was all up to you!
Or at least until you get your ass kicked. Or hit a dead end. Quite possibly both.
The original Zelda game is an odd one for me. On one hand, I understand and agree with all the excitement. On the other, I find it rather dull to play through. Personally, I prefer the games from Zelda 2 onward.
Zelda 1 does a lot of things that hold up to this day. First and most importantly for me: it was the first game ever made to introduce an actual functioning save system! That’s right, there are no passwords here! Put that notepad away, you won’t be needing it!
Oh god, does anyone even remember the password system? Are there any kids reading this who don’t know what I’m talking about? Please tell me you know what I’m talking about, young people!
Gameplay wise, this game is as simple as they come. You’re a boy, you go into a cave, get a shitty sword from a creepy old man, and bam! You’re off on a grand adventure to save the princess from the clutches of an evil pig wizard! You explore, get new stuff, and use said stuff to murder monsters and keep the loop going until the end.
Here’s where I have a few issues. One: not all of the gear you get is especially good, interesting or cool. They all have their use, don’t get me wrong. And the items themselves are creative in their use. Have a ladder? Use it to bridge this gap! Use this raft to sail across the water to this island! Use a lamp to commit arson and burn down a tree!
My personal problem with this born from the fact that I’ve grown up on more modern Zelda games. I’m used to super creative and interesting items like the Hookshot, the Mirror Shield, the Medallions from Link to the Past, etc. So going back to this one, where the items are all simple and practical, can be a little rough.
Another issue I have is that almost all the items are one hundred percent mandatory if you want to beat the game. For example, do you want to kill Ganon? Well it doesn’t matter if you’re skilled as hell and you can perfectly dodge each of his attacks no problem. If you don’t have those silver arrows, you aren’t getting anywhere. Go search through this fucking nightmare of a dungeon and find the damn things. No you don’t have a choice in the matter, fuck you.
I understand that this is a limitation of the time. But there are plenty of Zelda games where you don’t need certain items to progress. They help, yes, but some of them are exclusively for side quests or collectible hunts.
The open world exploration can also be a pain. Secrets are hidden really well, sometimes to the point of infuriating to asinine degrees. Many of the areas blend together, making it hard to figure out where you are at any given time. This is a problem especially plaguing the dungeons, which are a huge pain in the ass to navigate. If you don’t have a map of the world, get ready for a long adventure.
Still, issues aside, I do enjoy this game. I have a hard time going back to it, but it’s still a classic through and through. Now join me next time so I can discuss a very controversial opinion of mine.
As I explain why I prefer Zelda 2 over this one.